Sanford-Burnham inks deal with J&J to discover medicines for Alzheimer’s Disease and neuropsychiatric disorders

Ortho- McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals gains exclusive access for a three-year term to a multi-disciplinary team and a translational infrastructure dedicated to finding new approaches to treating neurological and psychiatric conditions

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LA JOLLA, Calif.—Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute has entered into a collaboration with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (OMJPI) to discover compounds for Alzheimer's disease and major psychiatric disorders. Under the agreement, multi-disciplinary teams from Sanford-Burnham and OMJPI will collaborate to identify and validate new targets for drug discovery and will seek compounds suitable for lead optimization and further development by OMJPI.
The deal grants OMJPI exclusive access for three years to What Sanford-Burnham called "a multi-disciplinary team of world-class scientists and a translational infrastructure dedicated to finding new approaches to treating patients with devastating neurological and psychiatric conditions."

Although the financial terms aren't being made public, spokesperson Megan Lavine notes, "I can tell you we believe the deal is bigger deal than the one recently announced by UCSF and Pfizer."  In that deal to which she refers, Pfizer Inc. and the University of California, San Francisco, have formed a new partnership to accelerate the translation of biomedical research into effective new medications and therapies for patients. The broad agreement potentially means as much as $85 million in research support and milestone payments over the next five years for UCSF. The partnership, which could advance up to 10 projects at a time, differs from traditional public-private partnerships in that it creates an open network of researchers called the Center for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI). Unlike traditional public-private partnerships, the CTI reportedly will foster broad collaboration and exchange between UCSF and Pfizer scientists to help identify promising experimental molecules and quickly move them into proof-of-concept studies and clinical trials.

Such aims, of course, are not dissimilar from those of Sanford-Burnham and OMJPI, and the collaboration with researchers at a major pharmaceutical company is expected to help the institute achieve its mission of translating high-impact science into important new therapies.

"This represents the first of what we expect to be a series of thematic collaborations that focus our tremendous scientific and translational firepower on major unmet medical problems," says Dr. John Reed, CEO of Sanford-Burnham. "Working in concert with strong partners, we can bridge the gap between early- and late-stage drug development."

Sanford-Burnham will receive funding that includes upfront and yearly access fees, funding of discovery research in the field, milestone payments and royalties for successfully developed products. A joint steering committee will oversee the collaboration, which includes a drug discovery team funded by OMJPI in the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics (CPCCG) at Sanford-Burnham. CPCCG is Sanford-Burnham's state-of-the-art screening facility established by the National Institutes of Health as part of a national effort to accelerate the rate of commercialization of basic research by generating small molecule probes that can be used to develop a pipeline of drugs to treat unmet medical needs. Sanford-Burnham's drug discovery capabilities include: ultra high-throughput screening; high content screening; phenotypic screening; and target deconvolution technologies. CPCCG is led and staffed by industry-trained professionals who work closely with Sanford-Burnham investigators and industry collaborators to assist them in translating their scientific findings into actionable projects for new drug discovery.
"This agreement sets the stage for Sanford-Burnham to fully leverage the drug discovery infrastructure the Institute has put into place over the last five years," said Dr. Michael Jackson, Vice President, Drug Discovery and Development at Sanford-Burnham.

The announcement also came right on the heels of news regarding the formation of a research agreement between Florida Hospital, Sanford-Burnham and Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., in late December signed a research agreement to form a collaboration aimed at discovering and evaluating new therapeutic approaches to obesity.

Compared to the collaboration with Florida Hospital and Takeda, the deal with J&J's Ortho-McNeil-Janssen subsidiary is "more of a targeted type of program," says Dr. Paul Laikind, chief business officer for Sanford Burnham. "It's a multiyear program where we will be working side-by-side on multiple projects, some of which we know what they will be and some which we have no idea what they will be right now. We'll really be bringing into play some unique strengths of ours like high-throughput and high-content screening to work on a program that is designed not only to identify new targets but also new drugs and work collaboratively with J&J to move drugs forward to the clinic. We'll bring some ideas to and we'll come up with some collectively and from that may come some unexpected new targets that make us both say, 'this looks great, let's work on it'."

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