Pharma

Emory University nonprofit aims to set up safe crossing through “valley of death”

Alternative business models for drug developers are all the rage in the face of the grim financial reality facing early stage companies. But a public-private enterprise under the ownership of Emory University wants to build a safe crossing through the “valley of death” that early stage biotechnology companies have to walk between pre-clinical testing and […]

Alternative business models for drug developers are all the rage in the face of the grim financial reality facing early stage companies. But a public-private enterprise under the ownership of Emory University wants to build a safe crossing through the “valley of death” that early stage biotechnology companies have to walk between pre-clinical testing and the proof-of-concept stage of drug development, according to a university statement.

Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, or DRIVE (see the transportation theme working here?) is a not-for-profit company separate from, but wholly owned by Emory and fits into Emory Innovations Inc.– created last year for new companies owned at the university. It seeks to expand the capabilities of traditional academic drug research by combining the experience of Emory scientists with a group of experienced hands from the pharmaceutical and legal sectors.

It’s starting out with $10 million in funding from royalties the university received from its development of HIV drug emtricitabine (Emtriva), among other funding sources.

Update So maybe it’s not surprising that DRIVE’s initial focus will be antiviral technology before adding other areas. In an interview with David Perryman, one of the leaders of DRIVE, he said the reason for the company is to create a way to steer clear of the entangled bureaucracy that can threaten the advancement of technology at any university. It’s also to ensure that leadership can tap their own real world experience to ensure the technology gets to the appropriate group to commercialize it. “A lot of universities are getting into technology transfer and by and large, they don’t know how to do it,” Perryman told MedCity News in a phone interview.

DRIVE will provide companies coming out of Emory and the region financial, business, project management and regulatory insight. It will seek to license out their technologies to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, partner them with foundations or government entities, or organize a spin-out into newly formed companies financed by venture capital firms.

Among the managers of DRIVE are:

  • George Painter III, the former worldwide director of research process and international deputy therapeutic head for antiviral research at GlaxoWellcome and founder at Triangle Pharmaceuticals where he oversaw the development of Emtricitabine through NDA filing.
  • David Perryman, the founder and CEO of ZIRUS, where he oversaw the development of a host antiviral drug platform. He was also the head of the biotechnology patent group at Needle & Rosenberg.
  • Abel De La Rossa previously was senior vice president of business development and scientific affairs at Pharmasset.

DRIVE will work with Emory’s Institute for Drug Development and invest Emory’s share of financial gains from technology transfer into research, education and patient care.

“The traditional pharmaceutical research and development operating model is no longer sustainable,” said Dr. Dennis Liotta, founder of the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) according to the statement. “The marked decrease in the development of new therapeutics is having a uniformly negative effect on global health and threatens life expectancy, quality of life, economic development and national security. Emory’s new public-private enterprise is a bold new approach that can help solve this problem.”