NEW YORK—Aimed at enhancing both discovery and translational research while leveraging the expertise of three prestigious academic institutions, international software provider Schrödinger Inc. and the one-year-old Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute Inc. (Tri-I TDI) have launched a joint agreement allowing all students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and staff access to Schrödinger’s Materials Science, Biologics and Small-Molecule Drug Discovery Suites. The Schrödinger platform is built to advance early-stage research toward new therapeutics—a huge goal for young scientists anxious to make their mark.
“We’re honored to be chosen as a technology platform provider for Tri-I TDI,” Schrödinger President Dr. Ramy Farid stated in a news release. “We believe our software will complement and contribute meaningfully to the institute’s ambitious goal of significantly accelerating drug discovery projects.”
Funded by $20 million in donations, the nonprofit Tri-I TDI is a unique alliance among Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College, and is designed to speed up early-stage drug discovery into new treatments for a myriad of diseases and illnesses.
“We are very happy to work with Schrödinger, which has a great reputation and is well known for its commitment to scientific breakthroughs,” said Dr. Michael Foley, an industry veteran and Tri-I TDI’s Sanders director. “This unprecedented agreement gives the Tri-Institutional community unparalleled access to industry-leading modern drug discovery and development software tools, as well as the training required to employ them to advance our research toward new therapeutics.”
Projects could range from tackling the developing world’s most deadly diseases—such as tuberculosis and malaria—to research on Alzheimer’s, cancer, HIV, heart disease and obesity to work on neglected or orphan diseases that afflict small numbers of people, according to Tri-I TDI.
Each scientist’s home institution will retain its intellectual property.
“This is an unprecedented deal by Schrödinger,” Foley said. “They are bringing a powerful suite of tools to the table. This agreement, which serves three of the most prestigious universities in the country, is a game-changer.”
Tri-I TDI was launched Oct. 1, 2013. Since word got out about the new program, students and faculty have been excited about being trained to use Schrödinger’s high-tech tools, Foley said.
Cony D’Cruz, senior vice president of business development at Schrödinger, said the goal of the program is to assist academic investigators at the three institutions to more rapidly develop therapeutic agents and molecular probes. While Tri-I TDI will focus initially on the development of small molecules, it plans to expand over time to include biologic agents, especially monoclonal antibodies and molecular imaging agents.
Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, stated, “We are excited to help contribute to solving an important societal problem: how to improve the efficiency of drug development.”
“The process is currently fragmented, with many wasteful steps on top of the structural, intellectual and funding barriers that have made it so difficult to translate basic research into clinical application,” Glimcher said. “With academia and industry working together closely, guiding each other in the laboratory, we have a better chance to translate research discoveries into lasting medical contributions and to do so with far greater efficiency.”
“This institute will greatly enhance the ability of basic science labs at the three institutions to translate their discoveries into new medicines,” added Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University. “It’s a partnership that will help lower barriers in the drug discovery process and ultimately lead to new therapies for some of our most difficult and deadly diseases.”
“This unique research collaboration will promote greater efficiency in translating our best ideas about the development of new drugs into treatments for a variety of diseases, including cancer,” echoed Dr. Craig B. Thompson, CEO and president of Memorial Sloan Kettering. “It provides an exciting new model for academic-industrial collaboration, one that will allow us to get innovative therapies to patients quickly and economically.”