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Pharma gets friendly

The biggest drug makers are known for cut-throat competition, not collaboration. But last week Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly bucked that trend, announcing the creation of a joint company called Enlight BioSciences to help fund and develop enabling technologies to speed drug development. The company, formed with the help of PureTech Ventures, a venture capital firm in Boston, will seek out and fund linkurl:inventions from academic institutions;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54666/ aro

By | July 21, 2008

The biggest drug makers are known for cut-throat competition, not collaboration. But last week Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly bucked that trend, announcing the creation of a joint company called Enlight BioSciences to help fund and develop enabling technologies to speed drug development. The company, formed with the help of PureTech Ventures, a venture capital firm in Boston, will seek out and fund linkurl:inventions from academic institutions;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54666/ around the world. "The key bottleneck we're trying to fix here," said Daphne Zohar a board member at Enlight Biosciences and the founder of PureTech Ventures, is bringing the "basic proof of concept to the stage where you have a prototype." There isn't a lot of linkurl:funding;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/24577/ in that area currently, she said. The collaborative nature of the company is unusual, said Kenneth Kaitin, director of the Tufts Center for Study of Drug Development. "This is an industry that sharing doesn't come naturally to," he noted. But the technology Enlight plans to fund is considered "pre-competitive" -- that is, it's at an early enough stage of development to be shared without jeopardizing each company's own pipeline of drugs, said Kaitin. Also, he noted, sharing enabling technology could be an innovative way to make better bets on which compounds to advance into the clinic. The failure rates of new drugs are "really killing the industry right now," Katin said, such as Pfizer's cholesterol drug torcetrapib. All drug companies need to "make better choices" about which drugs to bring to clinical trials, he added. Together with such notable scientific advisors as Nobel laureate and MIT cell biologist H. Robert Horvitz, and linkurl:Frank Douglas,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53451/ past director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation, senior R&D leaders of the three pharma companies came up with a wish-list of technologies that could transform drug development, from imaging methods that could be used both in the lab and in the clinic, to drug delivery technology and better predictive models of disease. Enlight will start out with $39 million to invest in promising projects, and each of the three partners will have the opportunity to invest more as the projects progress, said Zohar. Other companies have expressed interest in partnering with Enlight. "We're open to it," in the future she said, but declined to disclose the names of the companies. Kaitin said he thinks the pharmaceutical industry is ready to pool resources. "I think this is the way of the future for the pharmaceutical industry."
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Comments

Avatar of: john toeppen

john toeppen

Posts: 52

July 21, 2008

I am getting the feeling that individuals that are globally connect by the internet and blogs are the part of undercurrent that creates new possibilities. Many of us have been connected through websites, blogs, and by sending links among friends. Ideas now move around very quickly and new collaborations become possible. Shared causes and team efforts create new opportunities for entire industries. While competition is keen in established markets, new markets and new products are the ultimate source of long term well being. Perhaps enlightened self interest is being enabled by enhanced individual connectivity.\n\nIs the global village finally really happening? Can our own self interests be best served by cooperation? I think that we can do more than simply have hope ? we can participate.\n
Avatar of: Eric Gosink

Eric Gosink

Posts: 2

July 21, 2008

Global villages are a nice idea but pharma companies want exclusive intellectual property positions (translation: no sharing) for therapeutics. How will these partners decide who gets first pick on new ideas if/when they flow in? Given the high level of financial support (for early academic stage research), I don't think they are assuming that all IP will be shared and/or non-proprietary. Perhaps the companies have a back room deal based upon their individual percentage investments in the program????
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

July 22, 2008

Some may call this a desperate measure stimulated by the current innovation dearth and looming patent expiries, Big Pharma having realized that horizontal integration does not solve the problem. The idea of setting up a skounkworks is nothing new but I think it is a step in the right direction for Big Pharma. Rigid structures and strategies prevailing in in-house R&D organizations would not allow doing what this organization may be able to do if it should indeed receive the required resources from its corporate parents.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 5

July 22, 2008

What's really interesting these days, and this paper shows a new example of what's going on, is that Pharma finally learned (the hard way) that really creative research is in the academia (or from the academia: emerging biotechs).\nThe next problem might be that with outsourcing fundamental, preclinical and clinical research, Pharma is slowly becoming one kind of project managing wrapper and GMP production specialist, ....who wants to keep patents and big earnings.\nThere definitely is a new relationship to build between pharmas and with the governments / academia these days, since a lot of drugs expenses are refunded to patients by governments with tax money.\nAnyway, even very preliminary, this sounds good.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 3

July 22, 2008

Pharma could benefit from some fundamentally new ideas. Why not exercise randomized experimental control to assess causality starting at the level of each individual patient? Why not use computation to measure the benefit/harm of a type of treatment over time and across health variables for each individual patient? Why not perform statistical tests on benefit/harm scores rather than on health variables or changes in health variables? Why not balance safety and effectiveness across many health variables simultaneously and transparently starting at the level of each individual patient? Why not assess benefit/harm as a function of dose for each health variable and across all health variables starting at the level of each individual patient? Why not distinguish true responders on active treatment from responders on active treatment that would have responded to placebo? Why not obtain reliable and valid measures of how individual patients respond so that it will be easier to identify genetic and other predictors of differential response? Why not integrate new gold standard methods of clinical research with new gold standard methods of clinical practice? All this and more is possible when drugs are being developed and used to manage and control most chronic health problems. All this and more would help get the right drug at the right dose to the right patient while avoiding the killing of patients and products.\n\nAcademia can be great. However, academia is not the font of all new ideas related to drug discovery and development.\n\nPosted by Curtis A. Bagne
Avatar of: Robert Von Borstel

Robert Von Borstel

Posts: 10

July 22, 2008

What is in it for the scientist in an academic setting? Are they now to work for the pharmaceutical companies while still being paid a salary by the University? Is the University attempting to put the academic staff into the servitude of Pharmaceutical companies, and asking for a 1/3 or 1/2 portion of the incoming funding for scientific research to be placed in University management coffers?\n\nBy and large, significant scientific discoveries are seldom immediately seen to be useful for pharmaceutical companies to sell. There is about a 20-year gap from significant discovery to the engineering or fiddling required to make a salable product. \n
Avatar of: Li Chen

Li Chen

Posts: 10

July 22, 2008

Exciting News! What is the main function of this new company? Creating a shopping list and more buying power?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 4

July 22, 2008

This is parallel to the union of the oil giants to form a new corporation intent on guiding academic research focused on alternative energy sectors. I would find the development slightly disconcerting to say the least.

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