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Lilly offers "free" assays

In a new initiative that aims to forge broader partnerships between pharma and academia, Eli Lilly has announced that it will conduct free drug development assays in four therapeutic areas on any compounds academic researchers and small biotechs care to send along. In exchange, the company will get first dibs on any licensing deals or collaborations that promising compounds might yield. What differentiates this initiative from the plethora of partnering opportunities out there, Alan Palkowitz,

By | June 16, 2009

In a new initiative that aims to forge broader partnerships between pharma and academia, Eli Lilly has announced that it will conduct free drug development assays in four therapeutic areas on any compounds academic researchers and small biotechs care to send along. In exchange, the company will get first dibs on any licensing deals or collaborations that promising compounds might yield. What differentiates this initiative from the plethora of partnering opportunities out there, Alan Palkowitz, Lilly's vice president of Discovery Chemistry Research & Technologies, told The Scientist, is that "in the initial roll-out this is open to an indefinite number of investigators without any preconditions." The idea, he said, is to work with researchers not just in the US and Europe, but worldwide. The initiative "seems to be very timely," Daphne Zohar, founder and managing partner of linkurl:PureTech Ventures;http://www.puretechventures.com/ in Boston, wrote in an email. "There is a great need for collaborations that bridge between academia and industry, particularly since the infrastructure that was feeding pharma's external innovation pipeline has been severely damaged." (Last year, PureTech helped found linkurl:Enlight Biosciences,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54840/ a partnership between Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly aimed at bringing academic innovation to industry.) On top of the stifling effect of the current financial climate on biotech, she explained, over the last eight years or so venture firms have moved away from funding academic innovation and towards safer bets from pharma spinouts. That means there's increasingly less opportunity for translating academic research into drug discovery unless pharma actively seeks out the collaborations. Lilly's Phenotypic Drug Discovery program (PD2) will test any compound it receives in linkurl:in vitro assays;https://pd2.lilly.com/pd2Web/DefaultMenuItems/jsp/pd2DisplayEnlargedImage.jsp?imageName=PD2_Assay_Modules.jpg for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis -- the company's key therapeutic areas. "These assays mirror what we do internally," said Palkowitz. For the past 20 years, pharma has increasingly looked to targeted drug development, which tests compounds against a single genomic target in a disease pathway, to fill the drug development pipeline. That approach, the company explained linkurl:on the program's website,;https://pd2.lilly.com/pd2Web/ has delivered disappointingly few medicines. PD2 will instead rely on phenotypic assays, which test a compound's effect on a broader measure of the disease --- such as anti-angiogenesis in cancer or insulin secretion in diabetes. Turning to phenotypic assays to test compounds from sources far and wide looks for promising therapies "without making any assumptions of how a compound works," said linkurl:Joel Kirschbaum,;http://otm.ucsf.edu/about/otmStaff.asp director of the Office of Technology Management at the University of California, San Francisco. He added that the initiative could be particularly interesting for finding new uses for existing compounds. Palkowitz said that Lilly had partnered with the linkurl:Association of University Technology Managers,;http://www.autm.net/ a worldwide organization of university tech transfer officers, to develop a universal material transfer agreement specifying the conditions for researchers to submit their compounds for use by all participating institutions. Once an institution has signed the agreement, any researcher there can participate. "We really examined what are some of the traditional hurdles that existed in setting up some relationships like this," he said, adding that about 65 institutions are already signed on as part of an "early adopters program." After a university has joined the program, researchers there who want to submit a compound for testing would first enter its chemical structure into a web portal. A computer algorithm will transform the structure into "an electronic fingerprint" that will keep the molecule's structure confidential while allowing the company to make sure the compound isn't one it already has. The company doesn't see the chemical structure of the compound, Palkowitz stressed, in order to allow researchers to maintain control of the IP. "We're trying to save that for later, once we've agreed" that there's something to pursue, he said. Lilly's will then test the compound, and if it is promising, the two parties will have 120 days to reach an agreement. "Immediately after that maximum 120 days is up, and if no agreement has been reached, the researcher is free to publish," Palkowitz explained, adding that if either the researcher decides not to commercialize the compound or the company decides not to pursue a collaboration, the intellectual property stays with the researcher.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Friending pharma;http://www.the-scientist.com/2009/06/1/60/1/
[June 2009]*linkurl:In bed with big pharma;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55506/
[12th March 2009]*linkurl:Pharma gets friendly;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54840/
[21st July 2008]

Comments

Avatar of: Kenneth Brouwer

Kenneth Brouwer

Posts: 1

June 16, 2009

Anything free is worth what you paid for it.
Avatar of: john toeppen

john toeppen

Posts: 52

June 16, 2009

This is a great way to share benefits and risks. This form of teaming allows each party to do what they are good at while providing opportunity for both. Developing working methods for collaborations seems like a great way to solve problems that are larger than any one group can handle. It would be great if we could go global with this approach in many areas like energy, health, security, and environment. We as individuals are now globally connected. It is time that we personally reach out and think globally and act globally. Individually, we now can all make a difference in matters that we care about and have a positive global impact. If the scientists of the world work together, the summation of our efforts will far exceed the results of our individual efforts.\n\nEd Land said that if you don?t care about getting credit or money that it is amazing what can be accomplished. Perhaps there are some things that we value beyond fame and fortune that are consistent with our higher ideals. Let?s put that to the test.\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 125

June 16, 2009

and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 17, 2009

After Novartis and some others Eli is finally getting on the bandwagon. However, these "collaborations" normally come at the price that the companies get access to the cell lines, reagents etc for their own research and of course they might run a second deck of compounds which the academic researcher never gets to see.\nThe reason for this is not goodness but bone-dry pipelines. Originally Big Pharma was waiting for small biotech to collapse and scavenge them. However, this is about another 6-12 month away (that is when many of them have to raise more money and a lot of them will die because there is none) and what do they do in the meantime. You are looking at what they do in the meantime...

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Mettler Toledo
Mettler Toledo
Life Technologies