You are here

02 Jul 2018

Dundee bridges the gap between academia and drug development

Universities have always played a unique role in the life science sector either providing the research behind the innovations or acting as incubator for spin-out companies which constantly add to its numbers.

The Drug Development Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee which will be partnering at Bio 2018 is unique in the UK in that it operates as a virtual standalone “biotech style” small molecule drug discovery organization, working across multiple disease indications, whilst coming under the umbrella of the university as a legal entity.

This makes it the only DDU of its type in the UK which, in turn, enables it to work in unfashionable areas such as tropical diseases, with one major delivery to date being a clinical candidate for malaria which is now in development with Merck KGaA.

Dundee DDU has also developed preclinical candidates for visceral leishmaniasis in partnership with GSK; three partnered projects with GSK and Pfizer; and assets licensed to enable the creation of three spin-out companies – Pacylex Pharmaceuticals, IOmet Pharma (recently acquired by Merck & Co.) and HepaRegeniX GmbH.

To underwrite this work, over the past 12 years the DDU has secured more than $142.6m funding from research grant/charitable funders and industry partnerships. This, in turn, allowed the DDU to attract management from senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry and build a team of over 95 translational scientists (medicinal chemists, DMPK scientists, computational chemists, and biologists) dedicated to the development of innovative medicines.

The state-of-the-art infrastructure for preclinical small molecule drug discovery has seen the DDU work in partnership with multiple academic institutions and industry partners including the University of Oxford, MRC Laboratories of Molecular Biology (LMB), University of Cambridge, GSK, AZ, Pfizer, Bayer and AbbVie amongst others.

The DDU’s strategic priority to 2020 is to continue to develop its position as a partner of choice for biopharma, product development partnerships (PDPs) and academic partners by continuing to deliver high-quality preclinical data packages and the de-risking of novel drug targets for diseases of unmet medical need.

“What happens is that we develop assets to a certain stage then either license to BioPharma or spin-out biotech companies to do the further development of them,” explains Dr. Julie Brady, who is in charge of business development for the DDU. “Essentially we bridge the gap between academic innovation and pharmaceutical development”

“Going to Bio2018 will allow us to talk to pharma and biotech companies about partnerships and enable us to look for VCs as investors.”