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Merck, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly to Invest in Emerging Drug Discovery Technologies

Enlight Biosciences and its founders Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer, and Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical combine forces to address innovation bottleneck.

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Enlight Biosciences, a Boston-based company founded by PureTech Ventures, has announced that it will direct up to $39 million to advance breakthrough technologies that can fundamentally alter drug discovery and development. Founding members Merck, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly have the opportunity to invest in the development of these technologies.

Enlight is focused on technology that will connect preclinical research, clinical development, and medical practice. Enlight develops these technologies in a “pre-competitive” model to meet the needs of the consortium of Enlight founders, applying a variety of scientific approaches, including both traditional pharmaceutical company expertise and more entrepreneurial approaches.
“The biopharmaceutical industry has a great need for innovative enabling technologies that will catalyze fundamental transformation of the drug discovery and development process. A collaborative entrepreneurial initiative such as Enlight that is dedicated to such technological innovation in R&D meets that need in an ideal way,” stated Dr. Steven Paul, Executive Vice President, Science and Technology, Eli Lilly and Company and President, Lilly Research Laboratories.
Dr. Rod MacKenzie, Senior Vice President of Pfizer Global R&D, said “The need for breakthrough technologies that enable innovation in biopharmaceutical science is an urgent priority for all of us engaged in bringing new medicines to patients. Enlight Biosciences is a creative new venture with a team of world-leading scientists. We are pleased to partner with Enlight Biosciences in this exciting new business model.”
Historical examples of vital enabling technologies include PCR, PET, antibody humanization and more recently RNAi and gene microarrays. Despite the importance of these technologies, over the last few years most traditional life science investors have focused their funding on late-stage therapeutic programs. As a consequence, important technologies that could be of great strategic impact to the pharmaceutical industry are not being commercialized.
Areas of interest include technologies that increase the ultimate likelihood of success of drugs that pass early development milestones (e.g., drug discovery, chemistry and synthesis platforms); technologies for early prediction of human response (e.g., predictive efficacy models, predictors of pharmacokinetics and toxicology); technologies that provide accurate readouts of both animal and human response to intervention (e.g., molecular imaging and biomarkers); and technologies that make promising chemical and biological compounds better suited to human treatment (e.g., formulation and drug delivery technologies).
Dr. Raju Kucherlapati said, “Enlight turns the standard approach to technology development on its head. Enlight starts with the most pressing unmet needs in the industry and works with industry and academic leaders to creatively address these needs, in contrast with the more typical technology-centric approach.  That allows us to focus on the most critical problems facing the industry.”
Enlight, founded by PureTech Ventures and a team of industry leaders and academic luminaries, proactively addresses critical unmet industry needs with innovations drawn from academic laboratories, startups, and ideas generated internally by the Enlight team.