The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI), a nonprofit, industry-led life sciences research institute focused on targeting cardio-metabolic diseases, diabetes and poor nutrition, has a new collaborative project underway.
The IBRI is teaming up with Eli Lilly and Dow AgroSciences to create a shared data platform that assesses the potential effects different molecules have on human health and the environment, says David Broecker, the IBRI’s president and CEO. The IBRI hopes the collaboration will lead to faster and higher-quality research by facilitating decisions on the safety of these compounds early in the discovery process.
“We will work together with the state’s life sciences companies to develop the tools needed to do a better job in the discovery and development of compounds that address [society’s] big problems,” he explains.
Broecker points out that while Dow and Lilly will use the database for their own purposes, parts of it will be publicly available to accelerate research and discovery at the state’s universities and other academic research institutions.
Testing the safety and toxicity of a molecule is a complex undertaking that generates reams of data, Broecker says. But that testing must be completed before further development can take place. There is also a lack of standard tools to analyze and reproduce cutting-edge methods for assessing risk across organs, species, and tissues, he adds. Creating a shared platform for risk assessment using toxicogenomics will also allow the IBRI to share best practices and increase adoption of new tools and procedures.
In addition, the database will be another tool in the ecosystem’s de-risking arsenal. It’s expensive to develop molecules into new drugs or agricultural products, Broecker says, and early, accurate safety testing can potentially save companies like Lilly and Dow a lot of time and money. The idea is to more quickly figure out which compounds won’t work so researchers can move on to the next target. “The opportunity from this shared database is about more than data,” Broecker says. “We can model best practices for methodology, process, and protocols. Our mantra is ‘discovery with a purpose’ to address big, real-world problems.”
According to the Broecker, Indiana’s life sciences ecosystem is uniquely positioned to take on this kind of collaborative endeavor. Indiana is home to some of the world’s biggest life sciences companies, and they encompass all parts of the industry, from agbio (DowAgrosciences) to diagnostics (Roche) to medical devices (Cook Medical) to animal health (Elanco).
“I like to say we have one of everything,” Broecker says. “Our biotech ecosystem is very robust, with a lot of shared understandings that apply to more than one company. The IBRI convenes scientists and develops shared tools to strengthen the ecosystem even more. Ultimately, we want to help grow companies in Indiana and beyond.”