Columbia University and health care–investment firm Deerfield Management announced Wednesday that they have formed a research and development alliance to advance the translation of biomedical discoveries into therapeutics, particularly in areas of high unmet need and rare diseases.

Through the partners’ new company, Hudson Heights Innovation, up to $130 million of initial funding will be available throughout 10 years from Deerfield and its partners. Deerfield also will provide development expertise when it comes to drug research.

Columbia Technology Ventures will helm Columbia’s part of the alliance, which the university said is expected to accelerate drug development out of its research labs and toward clinical validation in patients.

“Universities like Columbia are increasingly focusing on trying to ensure that scientific insights that are generated in the research lab actually turn into products and services that are out in the market and can benefit patients and society,” said Orin Herskowitz, executive director of Columbia Technology Ventures.

Such inventions often don’t make it into the hands of biopharmaceutical companies or large venture capital firms, he said. From Columbia’s perspective, Deerfield’s access to “deep pools of capital” and “expertise in clinical development” will aid in bridging the so-called scientific valley of death.

Beginning in the fall, researchers at Columbia will be able to submit proposals on projects for consideration by a Hudson Heights Innovations committee that includes leadership representing Columbia and Deerfield. Accepted projects, the partners said, will include a development plan aimed at filing an investigational new drug, or IND, application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Projects that file IND applications and have them accepted—allowing them to progress into human clinical trials—may be eligible for additional funding and support from Deerfield.

Each year Columbia’s researchers create more than 400 scientific inventions, resulting in more than 200 patient applications, 100 licenses to industry and 20 intellectual property–backed startups.

“But we’re hoping to increase that number even further,” Herskowitz said. “Since New York is the home both for Columbia and Deerfield, we’re really excited this will help grow the biosciences ecosystem here in the city.”

“We hold Columbia’s research enterprise—a city in itself of preeminent research centers and institutes—in the highest regard,” said James Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield, in a statement. “And we believe that New York City is on its way to becoming a leading life science capital and the perfect venue for our collaboration with Columbia, as we collectively seek to develop new medicines to address unmet medical needs.

“The Columbia investigators will have Deerfield’s support to expedite the drug-development cycle, which we expect will allow patients to receive treatments faster and physician-scientists more time to turn their attention to the next discovery,” Flynn added.

Deerfield has partnered on a number of research alliances with academic institutions recently, including one with Harvard University, announced in March, that commits $100 million in initial funding.

 

Source: Columbia University, Deerfield Management ink $130M drug-development alliance