Purdue ups focus on drug discovery with $250M investment

With these investments, looks like Purdue University is in a unique position to leverage the growing connection between tech and biotech.

A cryoelectron microscopy reconstruction of ESV1 is shown. A team of Purdue researchers successfully engineered the virus to target and kill cancer cells and eliminated its native infection preferences. (Purdue University image courtesy of Kuhn research group)

A cryoelectron microscopy reconstruction of ESV1 is shown. A team of Purdue researchers successfully engineered the virus to target and kill cancer cells and eliminated its native infection preferences. (Purdue University image courtesy of Kuhn research group)

MedCity News has partnered with BioCrossroads to provide coverage focused on Indiana’s next generation of growth and innovation in life sciences.

Purdue University in Indiana is funneling $250 million into the life sciences over the next five years – a move that marks a notable shift for the engineering-heavy school toward the biological sciences.

The university will use this funding to strengthen its life sciences faculty, build a new chemical genomics facility at the Purdue Center for Drug Discovery, and build stronger programs in the neurosciences, inflammation, immunology and infectious disease.

Purdue, historically, has focused primarily on engineering, says David Johnson, president and CEO of Indiana life sciences trade group BioCrossroads – formerly venturing in the tech transfer realm only as far as medical devices, and less so with therapeutics. Indiana University, with the state’s only medical school, has been the major player in the life sciences.

However, this investment shows that the university is upping its game in the life sciences – and plans to become a stronger player in the therapeutics space as well. Also, in regards to Purdue’s strong computer science program:

“I think there’s a growing convergence between the tech and biotech sectors,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing that in startups, the industry, and academic research models as well – and a school like Purdue is well-situated to take advantage of both sides of that coin.”

The university has been building up its focus on the life sciences of late. For instance, this past fall it announced another $60 million investment in the life sciences.

Purdue now has spun out research for 40 compounds that are now in the development pipeline, of which two have been approved. Beyond that, 14 are in human trials and the remaining are still in preclinical study.

Given Purdue’s proximity to big pharma player Eli Lilly and Company, this investment is particularly interesting:

“If we’re going to make further strides against disease in the 21st century – and I’m convinced that we can – then progress will depend on deep collaboration between academic research centers and industry,” said John C. Lechleiter, chairman, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company, in a statement. “Purdue University’s major investments point the way. They will make Purdue an even more important player in drug discovery and applied life sciences research – attracting industry partners, stimulating innovation-based growth in Indiana, and above all turning scientific leads into potential new treatments.”