China's HD Bio teams with Marshall U. for cancer R&D

Chinese clinical research outfit HD Biosciences has struck a deal with Marshall University to collaborate on cancer drug development, sharing costs and risks in hopes of commercializing new therapies.

Under the deal, the Shanghai-headquartered HD will take oncology compounds discovered at Marshall and pitch in on preclinical development. The pair will split the intellectual property and commercialization rights to any successful projects, planning to target potential partners on the Chinese and international markets.

The idea is to maximize the strengths of each party to create value. The school's investigators have plenty of experience in translational research and, combined with HD's expertise in the CRO world, they can more easily cross the bridge into drug development, according to Zijian Xie, director of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR).

"Normally, it would take tens of millions of dollars and as long as a decade to translate the technology MIIR and the school of medicine have developed over the last several years into viable drug candidates," Xie said in statement. "This joint effort with HD Biosciences will significantly shorten the process because of their expertise in drug discovery, and ultimately will reduce the risk for all the partners."

For HD, the risk-sharing deal dovetails with the CRO's efforts to ensure long-term growth, CEO Xuehai Tan said. The company's client roster already includes 8 of the world's top 10 drugmakers, according to HD, and adding a value-generating collaboration to its more traditional contractor relationships gives it the potential to expand into new markets.

Risk-sharing arrangements like HD's are becoming more and more popular in the drug development world, highlighted by WuXi PharmaTech's ($WX) partnership with Ambrx and inVentiv Health's collaboration with Oncobiologics. Companies like Avillion, Ergomed and Evotec are largely if not wholly dependent on such arrangements for their revenue.

But despite the potential paydays involved in such deals, many CROs prefer to keep their client relationships more platonic, worrying that the high-risk game of drug development could wreck their thin margins or preferring to stay out of any arrangement that could force them to compete with their other partners.

- read the statement

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