An investment management firm has committed $65 million in funding to UNC to accelerate the development and creation of new medicines.
The University is partnering with Deerfield Management to form Pinnacle Hill, LLC. Pinnacle Hill will manage funding to approved projects and provide drug development expertise across a wide range of therapeutic areas, according to a University press release.
Deerfield Management is an employee-owned hedge fund sponsor that typically invests in the health care sector, particularly pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and generic drugs.
“This is a very exciting new partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill and Deerfield Management. In creating a new company, Pinnacle Hill, we are bringing together the best of academia and industry to accelerate innovative drug research,” said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt in a press release. “By investing in our faculty’s early stage research, this partnership advances our commitment to improving the health and well-being of people around the world.”
A joint steering committee comprised of members of the University and Deerfield will review and approve project proposals.
The UNC members of the committee will be Terry Magnuson, UNC vice chancellor for research; Dhiren Thakker, interim dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and interim director of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation and Blossom Damania, vice dean for research in the UNC School of Medicine.
Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development, said UNC and Deerfield will have equal oversight of the process.
“They work together in making all of the decisions, whether it’s the selection of the project, the development plan for the project, the allocation of funding, all of these decisions are made jointly by both Deerfield and UNC,” Cone said.
Cone said outside partners bring important expertise that allows new medicines and cures to be delivered to patients.
“We don’t control all of the resources and know-how and access to customers that commercial enterprises do, so we seek these really great symbiotic relationships with external people,” she said. “Deerfield is a great example of a relationship that is good for us and good for them, and plays on the strengths of both of the parties.”
Cone said the new partnership is part of a tradition of cooperation between the University and outside funders for medical research, including a long-standing partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.
Kay Wagoner, associate director of the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, said capital investments for this type of research are rare, so the University is always seeking partnerships.
“It’s a big deal if you can jumpstart this, getting from the early stage research that we have closer to the patients,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner said the money will be used to sponsor research in laboratories at UNC or to contract studies to outside researchers before a drug is developed.
“Once these projects move forward, they will be put in the hands of sophisticated companies and drug developers so that they can actually become drugs,” she said. “Once they do, the revenues from that will also come back in part to the University.”
Profits from any successful projects will be shared by Deerfield and the University, according to the press release.
Wagoner said there is currently no specified date to begin review of proposals, but the steering committee will likely begin doing so in the first quarter of 2019.
“We have a lot of work to do between the 30th (of October) and the end of the year to get all of these activities together, hiring an alliance manager, etc., so it looks to me like the kickoff the proposal part or the important part of this collaboration will be in early 2019,” Wagoner said.
The partnership will be formally launched at an event hosted by the University and Deerfield Management on Oct. 30 at 3:30 p.m. at the Carolina Club.