New Program Designed To Expedite Early-Stage Drug Discovery into Innovative Treatments For Patients

Weill Cornell Medical College is launching a new program to help investigators make their research more appealing to the biopharmaceutical industry. The program will offer scientists financial support to conduct research demonstrating that their discoveries can be turned into effective treatments for patients.

The Daedalus Fund for Innovation is designed to advance promising, early-stage applied and translational research projects that have such commercial potential. The biopharmaceutical industry requires "proof of concept" data as an established standard by which it determines whether a research project is ready for investment and partnering.

"We have a lot of wonderful translational projects — world class science," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "The Daedalus Fund is designed to make these projects more attractive to investors and serve as a catalyst for the development of more partnering opportunities."

Because of shortfalls in funding, scientists often struggle to develop a promising discovery to the point where it's attractive to potential industry partners for further research, development and commercialization. While grants from the National Institutes of Health or other agencies fund basic science research, they often don't provide enough money to cover "proof of concept" studies, which could include testing in animal models to determine if a discovery can be translated to the clinic, or creating a biomarker to identify patients who might benefit from treatment. Without these data, companies are less willing to obtain licenses to test these discoveries in patients and ultimately bring them to market as treatments.

"We are trying to develop new cures and new therapies for patients to alleviate suffering, to improve patient care, to impact the practice of clinical medicine," said Larry Schlossman, managing director of BioPharma Alliances and Research Collaborations at Weill Cornell who will manage the Daedalus Fund. "It is essential that we build relationships and foster partnerships with industry to achieve this core mission."

The ultimate goal of the program is to help grow the number and quality of collaborations between Weill Cornell and the life sciences industry, and foster translation from the laboratory to patients, Schlossman said.

Weill Cornell scientists can apply to participate in the program. An independent advisory committee including Professor of Pharmacology Dr. Hazel Szeto and experts from the biopharmaceutical and venture capital industries will recommend projects for funding.

The program is key to fulfilling Weill Cornell's public service mission, Schlossman added. "We feel that we have an obligation to the public — especially as a recipient of NIH funding, which is taxpayer supported — to translate this research and move it forward as fast as we can," he said.