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NYU Medical Center Starts Drug Discovery Partnership Program

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1 May 2014. New York University’s Langone Medical Center unveiled an initiative to establish more partnerships with drug and biotechnology companies that move initial therapeutic targets into active drug development programs. NYU’s Office of Therapeutics Alliances, says the university, aims to fill the translation gap or “valley of death” between research performed by academic scientists to identify drug targets and preclinical studies conducted by biotech or drug companies and supported by investors.

NYU’s program plans to engage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies earlier in the process to collaborate on identifying and optimizing leads for new therapies, to help remove much of the risk associated with drug discovery research. The office expects to establish new partnering models that bring in government and foundation funders to work with investors, biotech start-ups, and established drug companies to support NYU researchers during this drug discovery phase.

The program plans to support studies on target validation, small molecule library screening, hit-to-lead medicinal chemistry optimization, animal toxicology, and pharmacokinetics — the body’s reactions to proposed therapies. The university says it can negotiate flexible licensing arrangements with industry partners that correspond to milestones in the drug discovery process, or establish co-funding with NYU in return for future intellectual property rights, such as the right of first negotiation.

The Office already has seven projects underway to expand on initial drug targets. Among the studies in progress are research on small molecules that target an inflammatory pathway associated with complications from diabetes, and validation of targets in precancerous inflammation associated with pancreatic cancer in mouse models. Other projects underway include studies optimizing leads related to protein receptors expressed in melanoma cells that drive the growth and spread of tumors, and research optimizing leads for inhibiting a pathway to help recruit stem cells that repair myelin lesions associated with multiple sclerosis.

The university tapped Robert Schneider, a professor of microbiology to lead the Office of Therapeutics Alliances. Schneider also serves as associate dean for therapeutics development and industry alliances at the medical school as well as associate director for translational cancer research. In addition, Schneider helped start five biopharmaceutical companies.

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