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Cambridge University joins Lilly’s open-source discovery platform

UK academic institution will have access to pharma company’s in vitro model systems

The University of Cambridge in the UK has become the latest academic institution to sign up to an open-source drug discovery programme set up by Eli Lilly.

The Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform (formerly known as PD2) was set up by Lilly in an attempt to overcome the challenges posed by rising costs and declining productivity in pharma R&D by increasing its interactions with academia.

Over 60 institutions have already signed up to the platform, which Lilly says is designed to “tackle barriers to innovation, where cost pressures, cutbacks and lack of resource pose risks to ongoing R&D”.

The result is “superhighways all pointed towards the final destination of discovering novel medicines,” according to Alan Palkowitz, Lilly's vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies.

One of the benefits for academic researchers is access to Lilly's in vitro model systems, including a phenotypic screening system that allows drug compounds to be tested for activity against multiple mechanisms and targets simultaneously.

Under the terms of the OIDDP, Lilly provides access to the assays without charge to researchers who wish to submit molecules for testing.

Intellectual property rights are retained by the academic institution, but Lilly has first opportunity to negotiate rights to molecules discovered by the partners.

“The access to Lilly's sophisticated in vitro model systems, as well as the potential for future collaborations and licenses with the goal of discovering new therapeutics, makes these types of initiatives very important,” said Emma Barker of Cambridge Enterprise, the university's commercialisation group.

The OIDD has achieved several successes since the first partner joined the scheme in February 2011, including the discovery of several compounds with potential in cancer by researchers at the University of Notre Dame in the US.

A project with the University of California in diabetes has also advanced to the compound optimisation stage and a wide-ranging project with the University of Valencia in Spain has been expanded.

24th January 2012

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