Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College have formed the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, an independent nonprofit. Takeda Pharmaceutical will be the institute's first commercial collaborator.
Three of New York City's powerhouse medical institutions are joining forces to pursue early-stage drug development.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College announced in October that they have formed the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), an independent nonprofit. Takeda Pharmaceutical of Osaka, Japan, will be the institute's first commercial collaborator.
The new institute is intended to combine the research strengths of the three institutions and the pharmaceutical industry to fill the gap between basic science and the development of innovative drugs, says David Scheinberg, MD, PhD, interim director of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute (MSKCC's research group) and chairman of MSKCC's Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program.
Academic institutions are not usually strong at medicinal chemistry or the later stages of drug development, he says. Drug companies, in turn, could use the help of academics for early-stage drug development.
The new center, Scheinberg says, “leverages our resources, talent, and ideas to make a much more efficient, robust organization that could make drugs not only for cancer, but also a variety of medical problems.”
It makes sense for MSKCC to collaborate on this project with Weill Cornell and Rockefeller, he says, because “we're all within 100 feet of each other” and have a long tradition of sharing resources. “It was a no-brainer to come together to do this.”
Tri-I TDI received $20 million from two couples: Lewis and Ali Sanders and Howard and Abby Milstein. This funding will support research, training, and infrastructure, and will launch a new program in medicinal chemistry.
The collaboration will soon expand to include other companies besides Takeda, Scheinberg says, though he declined to elaborate on either the companies or the institute's initial areas of focus.
Many other industry–academic partnerships are focused on a particular target or molecule, but the new center aims for more extensive collaboration, he says, “so both sides will participate and teach each other the different halves of the process.”
Stewart Lyman, PhD, of Lyman Biopharma Consulting in Seattle, WA, says there have been many industry–academic alliances in the past several years, including Gilead Sciences of Foster City, CA, with Yale University in New Haven, CT; Novartis with the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and Onyx Pharmaceuticals of Thousand Oaks, CA, with both the University of California at San Francisco and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. What's unusual in this case is the collaboration among three academic institutions, he points out.