The story of Remicade®, a biologic used to treat a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, is a remarkable one. Jan T. Vilcek, MD, PhD, the microbiologist who, with his colleague Junming Le, PhD, created a monoclonal antibody that led to Remicade®’s development, was a penniless refugee from communist Czechoslovakia when he joined the faculty of NYU School of Medicine in 1965. The treatment his research made possible, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998, now helps nearly 3 million people around the globe. The second-highest selling pharmaceutical product in the world, with sales exceeding $10 billion, Remicade® has paved the way for several other drugs in its class.
“Be bold in establishing industry contacts, and take advantage of any and all resources available… There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing your research help alleviate suffering.” —Jan T. Vilcek, MD, PhD
Research Professor and Professor Emeritus of Microbiology
What makes that success all the more impressive is that it was achieved without the institutional support system that’s now in place to help researchers partner with industry. Typically, a drug can take a decade to develop and cost up to $1 billion before it reaches the market. To reduce the risk of early-stage drug discovery, NYU Langone Health’s Technology Ventures and Partnerships, within the Office of Science and Research, works with investigators to evaluate research projects for their commercial potential, identify possible clinical paths, and advance the project to a stage suitable for licensing to a biopharma company or launching a startup company. Since its inception in 2013, the office has brought 24 biomedical products to market.
“In the 1980s, there was no mechanism for such collaboration,” explains Dr. Vilcek, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2013. “Translational medicine and scientific entrepreneurship did not exist, so I had to make my own contacts. I encourage younger people to be bold in establishing industry contacts, and take advantage of any and all resources available. I’ve received hundreds of emails from patients who’ve benefitted from Remicade®. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing your research help alleviate suffering.”