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Bridging the industry-academia gap
August 2011
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author
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VANCOUVER—Two leading global drug discovery and development centers, Canada's Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) and Germany's Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC), have signed an agreement to launch the joint development of "promising innovations" to treat a myriad of diseases ranging from cystic fibrosis to influenza.  
 
The companies will share infrastructure and expertise and utilize academic institutions across Canada, scientific information from Germany's Max Planck Institutes, as well as "select global partners," the companies announced on June 28.  
 
Dortmund, Germany-based LDC was jointly developed by Max Planck Innovation and the Max Planck Society to advance the findings from basic research into the development of novel medicines. The objective of this partnership is to "successfully translate basic research into high-quality commercial opportunities—and ultimately into new medicines that will benefit patients around the world."  
 
Both CDRD and LDC were established in response to the recognition that it has become more difficult in recent years to commercialize academic health research. By turning to academia for some answers, the partnership hopes to bridge the innovation and commercialization gap between academia and industry.  
 
"The collaboration between LDC and CDRD will bring new expertise and tools to the already strong Max Planck network that we work with," says Karimah Es Sabar, senior vice president of business and strategic affairs at CDRD.  
 
Sabar says the companies have several projects in mind.  
 
"We select projects that represent a novel approach to treating a disease where there is unmet medical need. The most prevalent therapeutic areas for projects are oncology, neuroscience, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders," he adds.
 
For any collaborative project under this agreement, CDRD and LDC will "work together to determine the most effective commercial path to ultimately bring the technology to patients," Sabar says. "This will include jointly seeking and identifying potential investors and financing sources, licensing opportunities and possibly establishing new spinoff companies as appropriate."  
 
CDRD and LDC "both have state-of-the-art preclinical drug development platforms, and the specialized infrastructure and scientific expertise to translate an early-stage discovery into a promising drug candidate," he says. "We also have a team of business professionals who are involved at every stage of project development to ensure that the commercial potential of the technology is optimized.  
 
"Within this context of our respective strengths noted above, CDRD also provides to LDC a linkage into our network of Canadian academic research centers, as well as the North American business community," Sabar adds.  
 
"Conversely, LDC offers a great linkage into Germany's Max Planck Institutes, as well as potential investors and strategic partners throughout the European Union. In addition, through this agreement, each organization may access the other's platforms and equipment; i.e. specific models, cell lines and libraries," he says.  
 
In the past, venture capitalists were willing and able to invest in early-stage research coming out of academia, Sabar observes.
 
"They have subsequently become much more risk averse and want to see a more fully developed and validated technology," he says.  
 
This paradigm has resulted in a "significant commercialization gap" whereby many promising academic discoveries are left unfunded and have no avenue to be progressed further towards commercialization, he says.  
 
The immediate goal of the partnership will be to "identify specific promising collaborative research projects that we can take forward together," Sabar says.  
 
At CDRD, "we recognize that achieving our vision of transforming the culture of scientific innovation and commercialization impacting human health requires partnerships between industry and academia on a global scale," Sabar says.
 
Bert Klebl, co-CEO of LDC, concurs: "There are very few organizations in the world that can truly take an early basic research idea and effectively translate it into a technology that will capture the attention of industry and venture capital companies. With CDRD, we have a partner that has developed impressive expertise in drug development and a strong network of partners that we can now count on to further accelerate our own in-house relationships and expertise. We see this as an important trans-Atlantic partnership."
 
Code: E081107

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