Opinions: Right from the start

Published 13 July 2016

In these dark and wet days it is good to remind ourselves of the positive signs and developments in our everchanging environment. We may tend to focus on problem areas, with our conversations focussed on the gap between academia and industry and the many shortcomings of “the system”. We can analyse these gaps and subdivide into financial gaps, research rigor gaps, cultural gaps, and whatever other gaps we need to remind ourselves that there is a problem. However, we will never close these gaps by simply talking and analysing.

So, I was recently delighted with two presentations given at the fall meeting of ASTP-Proton, earlier this year in Amsterdam. Matthias Stein-Gerlach from the Lead Discovery Center, a spin off from Max Planck Innovation, and Patrick Chaltin from CD3, an initiative from KULeuven and European Investment Fund, showcased their business models. Just to summarize in one sentence, they scout for promising academic IP, develop this IP into a more mature product, and then seek to out license to industry partners. I believe this is a very powerful concept for multiple reasons. They don’t just provide funding, but actually take on the development themselves, ensuring the research rigor needed by industry partners is applied right from the start. They understand the disease area from the scientific point of view but also understand the market demands. In addition, they understand the balance that needs to exist between risk and reward.

What is really appealing to me is that these initiatives arose from academic centres. At EATRIS, it is our day to day business to involve academics in translational research as we seek to provide access to academic expertise and facilities to stimulate early phase development. These type of initiatives are very much in line with our goals. In the end, it all is about turning academic research into tangible products for the benefit of patients.