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

Edyta Zielinska
Jul 20, 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...
ng 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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