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Sanford-Burham’s expertise at the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, which has a lot of sophisticated tools for high speed drug discovery efforts.
It’s clear what both sides hope to get out of this kind of deal. Sanford-Burnham gets more financial support for its research at a time when federal grants are increasingly hard to come by. It also gets access to industry people with the know-how to carry its most promising programs forward to the marketplace. Ultimately, it’s about carrying forward projects beyond the research bench to the point where science can show it leads to tangible payoffs for human health. For its part, J&J hopes to find new targets and promising drug candidates for neurological disorders that represent big potential markets.
There are, of course, plenty of ways these deals can go off the rails. Academics often feel the need to publish their research findings widely to win further grant support and advance their careers, while industry scientists often want to keep their competitors in the dark about what they are really working on. There can be costly disputes over who owns the resulting intellectual property from drug discovery work, and how future revenue streams get divvied up, as the recent case between Novartis, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Gatekeeper Pharmaceuticals illustrates.
Laikind knows all about the potential potholes in the road, and has spent the past year trying to set up deals to avoid them.
“Having an industry team working side by side with our principal investigators gives us a real advantage in potential translating the science into actionable products,” Laikind says. “A lot of what I’ve focused on the past year has been on setting up interesting collaboration structures that allow us to move these projects forward in a concerted way, and get us through this Valley of Death we’re always facing where we can only take a project so far, and we need to take that next step where an investor, or companies, will take over.”
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