UMMS teams up with BioPontis to advance drug development

Collaboration takes aim at the bottleneck between discoveries and commercial applications

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

September 21, 2012

Taking aim at the troublesome bottleneck between academic biomedical discoveries and clinical applications suitable for commercial development, UMass Medical School has joined the university partnership of BioPontis Alliance.

With the agreement, UMMS and BioPontis will collaborate to identify innovative biomedical breakthroughs made at UMMS that have the potential to become viable treatments for cancer, neurological disorders and other diseases. BioPontis Alliance will review and evaluate these discoveries for commercial viability with input from its network of pharmaceutical industry partners while also providing direct support to faculty inventors. Discoveries that successfully show the capacity for development will be advanced to generate the proof of principle data that pharmaceutical licensors require as a foundation for real-world treatments and cures. Eventually, these technologies can be brought to the marketplace through licensing or the creation of independent new companies.

“One of our goals as an academic research center is to take scientific discoveries made in the laboratory and turn them into treatments and strategies for patients in the clinic,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine and director of the UMass Center for Clinical Translational Science. “This alliance with BioPontis has the potential to help us do that rapidly and efficiently.”

BioPontis is a unique hybrid firm that combines early-stage capital investment with early-stage drug development. It has formed agreements with three leaders in the pharmaceutical industry: Merck, Pfizer and the Janssen Biotech unit of Johnson & Johnson. BioPontis Alliance uses its knowledge of these companies’ product priorities to seek out and evaluate the relevant drug research of its university partners. At the same time, the pharmaceutical partners contribute to the design of crucial drug development objectives, ensuring that new drug candidates meet their technical and regulatory standards.

“BioPontis brings a unique combination of scientific expertise and industry connections to our efforts at translating basic biomedical research into real-world clinical treatments,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medicine, executive deputy chancellor, provost, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of pediatrics and microbiology & physiological systems. “Our faculty will benefit from insights that BioPontis brings to the table regarding what products companies are looking to develop.”

UMMS joins 10 other BioPontis University Alliance Partners, including Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Under the agreement, UMMS becomes a scientific and profit-sharing partner in all intellectual property development that occurs after BioPontis licenses and begins to invest in a potential new drug candidate. The UMMS inventor will remain involved in this process, gaining an opportunity to learn from seasoned drug development scientists at BioPontis