December 1, 2009
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As part of our Biotech Trends series, we’ve been following the increasing commercialization activity shown by non-profits (although they’ve been having as hard a time succeeding as everyone else). Two recent stories highlight the important role foundations are playing in this market environment.
- JDRF Canada – FedDev Ontario Clinical Research Collaboration. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Canada is partnering with the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to fund a clinical trial network for diabetes research. FedDev Ontario is committing $20 million and JDRF is committing $10 million. JDRF will collaborate with Southern Ontario universities and research institutions to work on:
- Speeding advances in cures and therapies for diabetes and its complications;
- Positioning Southern Ontario as an international hub for translational research; and
- Attracting the best international scientists and institutions to Ontario.
- ALS Foundations-Academia-Industry Project. Three philanthropic organizations (The Angel Fund, The ALS Therapy Alliance and Project ALS) are financing a new collaboration between Dr. Robert Brown and RXi Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NASDAQ: RXII). Dr. Brown will study the use of RXi’s self-delivering rxRNA™ (sd-rxRNA™) compounds as a potential treatment for ALS in a SOD1-overexpressing mouse model.
Each takes a novel approach:
- JDRF Canada, by collaborating directly with the government and by focusing on clinical activity; and
- the ALS project by allowing each party to perform in its specialty — academics on research, corporations on commercialization and the philanthropies on fundraising.
My bottom line:
In a stubbornly difficult financing environment, funding sources other than VCs step up because they derive non-financial (or at least indirect financial) benefits from their investments: corporate VCs get access to future partnership prospects; governments stimulate job growth; and charitable foundations are committed to finding cures and treatments. These two projects are perfect examples of the work-arounds that committed participants can produce.
July 3, 2009
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An article in Mass High Tech yesterday points to the trend we’ve been following of increasing commercialization activity by non-profits, but looks at things from the foundations’ point of view. While the economic crisis is, as expected, causing companies to seek out more foundation funding, those collaborations are having as much trouble as the rest of the biotech world:
- The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had to reclaim rights from Altus Pharmaceuticals, and spent $3 million continuing a Phase 3 trial while looking for a new partner;
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation is putting more money than it planned into its corporate ventures because of the dearth of for-profit investors; and
- the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has “had to walk away from some really good science” at companies that look “too vulnerable financially.”
The article also has a good list of foundation-biotech collaborations:
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with Alnara Pharmaceuticals, Epix Pharmaceuticals, FoldRx Pharmaceuticals;
Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, FoldRx Pharmaceuticals Inc., NeuroHealing, LINK Medicine and Codman & Shurtleff;
Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation with FoldRx Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with Tolerx Inc., Smart Cells Inc.