Calibr receives Gates Foundation grant

Goal is to lead collaborations to develop an Integrated Drug Discovery Platform for diseases of the developing world

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LA JOLLA, Calif.—The California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop what they are calling the Integrated Drug Discovery Platform for Diseases of the Developing World, or IDDP for short. “The name of the program exemplifies the approach—for Calibr’s expertise and unique infrastructure to function as an integrated hub for drug discovery research that targets a broad range of unmet medical needs of the developing world,” says Dr. Matt Tremblay, executive director of operations for the institute. The program will leverage ongoing research efforts and infrastructure at Calibr, as well as draw upon expertise in academia and industry by establishing collaborations. The grant provides support for multiple projects at various stages of preclinical development—from high-throughput screens to IND-enabling studies.
Calibr was conceived by Dr. Peter Schultz in 2010 and came to fruition with its founding in 2012. Schultz now serves as the institute director. Calibr is based on the operating model Schultz developed when he headed the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation as the institute director from 1999 to 2010. “Calibr leverages many of the same technologies and processes,” notes Schultz, “but in an independent not-for-profit setting that allows Calibr scientists to easily collaborate with universities and research institutes on unmet medical needs regardless of risk or financial incentives. The relationship with the Gates Foundation developed out of a desire to apply Calibr’s drug discovery expertise and infrastructure to unmet medical needs of the developing world.”
Calibr’s vision is to accelerate the translation of innovative biomedical research into new medicines that address unmet global health needs. The program will consist of a diverse portfolio of projects in priority research areas, namely tuberculosis, helminth infections (specifically river blindness and lymphatic filiariasis), diarrheal disease and both pathogen- and vector-based approaches to malaria. Dynamic resourcing within the program will drive the most promising projects toward the clinic while continuing to identify additional discovery opportunities, generating a renewable pipeline of new therapies for neglected diseases.
“Innovative biomedical research carried out in universities and research institutes often fails to lead to the development of new therapies,” Schultz notes. “The lack of appropriate infrastructure, expertise and processes within the academic community hampers discovery, evaluation and preclinical development of candidate drugs. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have tended to shift emphasis away from early-stage research on novel therapeutic strategies in favor of highly validated, target-based discovery or licensing approaches to drug development. Productive collaborations between industry and academic investigators are rare because of the complexity of establishing agreements and productive working relationships that facilitate the sharing of ideas, materials and inventorship. Thus, Calibr fills a critical gap by interfacing with academic investigators in order to greatly expedite the progression of their cutting-edge findings to new medicines with preclinical proof of concept, which are then partnered with biotech/pharma.
“We’re delighted to work with the Gates Foundation on these important problems,” adds Schultz. “Calibr brings significant experience in both drug discovery and basic biomedical research to the challenges of discovering new medicines for the complex diseases of the developing world.”
Calibr is based on a collaborative model that matches its preclinical drug discovery infrastructure, platforms and know-how with the deep expertise of the world’s leading disease biology labs. Calibr has established relationships with leading academic labs and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry—as well as several foundations—to build a diverse portfolio of projects and advance them toward the clinic. Located in La Jolla, Calif., Calibr has more than 80 scientists and staff in newly built labs located in close proximity to The Scripps Research Institute, The Salk Institute and the University of California, San Diego. In addition to Merck, both Scripps and UC San Diego are listed as collaborators on the Calibr website. The institute expects to add about 20 employees within three months to launch the Gates Foundation program.

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