Takeda, Harrington set up rare disease research program

The Harrington-Takeda agreement will fund academic rare disease researchers.

Takeda Pharmaceutical has teamed up with Harrington Discovery Institute to support research into treatments for rare diseases. The alliance builds on Harrington’s established model for supporting the work of physician-scientists with a dedicated rare-disease funding track that will benefit from Takeda’s capabilities.

As with its other initiatives, the nonprofit institute will provide funding and support to researchers from across the U.S. who have promising but early-stage drug development ideas. The institute adopted the model to address the historic lack of funding for programs that are yet to advance far enough to turn the heads of VCs and biopharma companies, and provide support and capabilities to help researchers take their projects to the point that they are commercially interesting.

Takeda likes the approach.

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“We believe Harrington Discovery Institute has a unique structure that is immensely helpful to academic researchers who are developing novel therapeutics that can result in significant impact for patients,” Daniel Curran, M.D., head of the center for external innovation at Takeda, said in a statement.

The Takeda agreement adds a twist to the approach by narrowing the focus to rare diseases and combining Harrington’s capabilities with those possessed by the Japanese drugmaker. Funding will come from the institute.

The collaboration is the second connection Takeda has made to Harrington in as many months. The first, less direct connection came when Takeda Ventures teamed up with Arix Bioscience to create and grow biotechs. Arix is a British investment vehicle that sources drug development and biotech creation opportunities from institutes around the world, including Harrington’s for-profit incubator BioMotiv.

To date, BioMotiv has acted as bridge between the institute and the industry, picking up assets at lead optimization onward, taking them as far as clinical proof of concept and offloading them to drug developers. The Takeda agreement gives Harrington a direct link to a biopharma company for the first time.

“Through this partnering model that bridges academia and industry, we will jointly leverage our financial and human capital to accelerate the pace of cures for rare diseases,” Harrington’s Jonathan Stamler, M.D., said.

Harrington has sought to extend its reach in recent years. The institute formed a relationship with the University of Oxford in 2014 that gave researchers in the U.K. a chance to secure funding and support for early-stage drug development projects. That initiative has since backed researchers working on drugs against prostate cancer, Crohn’s disease and other conditions. The institute has similar, therapeutic area-specific relationships with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and Foundation Fighting Blindness.

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