Bristol-Myers looks to academia to double down on fibrosis R&D

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) is teaming up with researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina to shed some light on the root causes of fibrotic disease, planning translational studies on a handful of ailments with hopes of spotlighting new treatments.

Under the agreement, the two organizations will join forces to discover targets in scleroderma, renal fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other diseases that lead to excess connective tissue buildups. The plan is to broadly illuminate how fibrosis works within the body, finding new ways of identifying patients and new biomarkers for measuring how diseases progress, Bristol-Myers said. Neither side is disclosing financial details.

For Bristol-Myers, the deal follows a recent embrace of R&D in the fibrosis field, highlighted by a handful of deals of some pipeline investments.

Earlier this year, the company partnered up the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), a San Diego nonprofit research center, to get its hands on some preclinical oral treatments for fibrotic disease. And in November, Bristol-Myers signed a deal under which it can acquire Denmark's Galecto Biotech for up to $444 million if that company's IPF drug comes through in clinical trials. Bristol-Myers' in-house pipeline includes another Phase II IPF treatment and a mid-stage drug for diabetic kidney disease.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey drugmaker is reorganizing its approach to R&D, in June announcing plans to shutter a pair of outposts and open a new research hub in Cambridge, MA. The effort will cut about 100 jobs and relocate roughly 700, the company said. Bristol-Myers believes it can accelerate discovery and development by tapping into global networks of research prowess, and beyond its plans in Cambridge, the company is expanding in the Bay Area.

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