Benefitting Patients Through Innovative Research Partnerships

By: Mike Johnson

Historically, the life sciences industry has had an issue of translating initial, academic scientific research into commercialized medicines that benefit patients. As the early stage costs of bringing a medicine to market have exploded, the pharmaceutical industry has logically taken a conservative approach to advancing therapies in the pipeline, leaving some potentially beneficial molecules behind.

This risk gap has necessitated the development of new relationships to ensure that promising science is further developed. Academia, charities, health care trusts, industry and patient groups have, sometimes together and sometimes alone, developed new strategies to de-risk previously investigated molecules that may have been shelved by pharma in order to pursue other projects.

MRC Technology is an independent life science medical research charity, based in the UK, which helps bridge the gap between basic research and commercial application; our goal is to ensure that innovative life science research reaches its full potential. To date we have assisted in getting four products to market, thereby allowing us to be self-funded through this consistent royalty revenue stream. One of our success stories is Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) which has now been approved in the US for treatment of metastatic melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer and is currently in clinical trials for more than 28 other cancers. Keytruda was humanized by scientists at MRC Technology, an essential step in the development of the therapeutic.

Another supported project, The Dementia Consortium, shows how this new world of collaboration can make an impact. The Consortium brings together voluntary, academic and private sectors to support research into novel targets for neurodegeneration. There is an explosion of dementia cases, with an estimated 40 million suffering worldwide, and there hasn’t been a significant new dementia treatment in over a decade.

Through a rigorous application evaluation process, the Consortium looks at promising projects from academia or small research firms. For selected projects, the Consortium will provide funding, expertise and resources to support new drug targets emerging from academic research that hold the promise of patient benefit with the goal of fast-tracking new treatments to find an answer to the neurodegenerative diseases that cause dementia. Recently, the Consortium has invested over £800,000 in projects targeted at ALS, FTLD and brain inflammation.

This is but one example of how a collaboration may be structured. MRC Technology is now assisting over 20 charities involved in creative collaborations to identify and evaluate potential research opportunities.

Regardless of how the collaboration is designed, the goal is the same. We are looking to advance early stage therapies with potential by de-risking the endeavor through thorough scientific analysis and then identifying potential new funding options to move the project forward. All is done in the name of making sure that therapies with potential aren’t left behind, ultimately bringing more therapies to patients.

About the Author:

Mike Johnson

Mike heads up MRC Technology’s Corporate Partnerships division, building relationships with universities and charities that support life science research. For more information about MRC or to discuss partnership opportunities, contact Mike or visit the MRC Technology website.

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