NYU Langone Medical Center has established a new drug discovery accelerator, the Office of Therapeutics Alliances (OTA). OTA is an innovative, nimble program that advances the discovery of novel therapeutic projects by combining the scientific strengths of NYU Langone investigators in dissecting disease pathways with the expertise of external professional drug discovery and development partners in the biopharma industry.
NYU Langone has approximately $260 million in annual research funding and is a leader among universities in developing numerous biomedical products, including blockbuster drugs on the market that have been used to treat almost two million patients worldwide. However, in recent years, the translation of academic research into new drugs has become a much riskier and challenging process. With the OTA program, NYU Langone has developed new models of collaboration to overcome the “translational gap,” where projects are often perceived as too early for partnering by biopharma companies and biotechnology investors but too advanced in scope for most academic researchers.
Taking advantage of the significant diversity of NYU Langone biomedical research programs and novel disease targets, OTA adopts an efficient, proactive approach to identifying projects with potential for addressing unmet medical need, delineates a path to therapeutic proof of concept and assembles the internal and external resources, and expertise tailored to each project to maximize the likelihood of successful, de-risked partnerships with biopharma or new biotech startups. The OTA team works closely with NYU Langone investigators and engages industry, financial and non-profit partners to accelerate novel NYU projects to potential partnerships by providing the necessary funding and project management to enable key drug discovery activities.
“OTA will energize the translation of great biomedical science at NYU Langone to advance programs across the translation gap, attracting industry partners to co-develop novel, successful drugs that tackle today’s complex major medical problems”, says Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, senior vice president and vice-dean for science, and chief scientific officer of NYU Langone Medical Center.
Leading OTA is Robert J. Schneider, PhD, associate dean for therapeutics development and industry alliances, and associate director for translational cancer research at the Perlmutter Cancer Center of NYU Langone. Dr. Schneider also serves as the Albert B. Sabin Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Pathogenesis at NYU Langone and has helped start five biopharmaceutical companies that have advanced projects from target validation to clinical testing.
“OTA is launching with an exciting, inaugural pipeline that reaches across the wide breadth of research activities and expertise at NYU Langone in many different disease entities, enlisting an outstanding external advisory board and developing productive industry and financial sector relationships,” says Dr. Schneider. “There is tremendous potential at NYU for new therapies, as our research covers every major disease area. Being located in the heart of New York City, we have the added advantage of proximity to the head offices of many major biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and we have developed strong ties to the local business and financial investment community.”
OTA sets itself apart from other academic approaches that rely solely on gap funding or limited in-house infrastructure compared to the robust and validated capabilities of its established network of drug discovery contract research organizations and consultants. OTA uses an efficient, progressive model for translation of target discovery to early stage therapeutic development, aligning its activities with key stakeholders including biopharma companies, investors, disease foundations and government funding agencies. Moreover, OTA coordinates its technical activities with the technology transfer role of NYU’s Office of Industrial Liaison in order to maximize creation of valuable intellectual property and licensing of NYU projects.
“OTA can jump start licensing of projects and the creation of new biotech startups where there is significant commercial interest but a gap in proof of concept and other critical data,” says Abram Goldfinger, MBA, executive director of the Office of Industrial Liaison at NYU. “OTA and NYU’s technology transfer group will be working closely to enhance scientific and commercial value by engaging potential partners from the very beginning.”
By understanding the realities of the current research and development drug discovery ecosystem and recognizing the unique strengths that well-aligned academic partnerships with biopharma, disease foundations and investors can provide, OTA endeavors to create an unparalleled, highly productive system to empower NYU biomedical innovation leading to the development of novel therapeutics that address major unmet medical needs.
NYU Langone’s OTA offices will be based at its main medical campus in Midtown Manhattan.