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New Powerhouse for Therapeutic Research Founded with $20 Million Donation

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College announced Oct. 1 that they have formed the pioneering Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, Inc. (Tri-I TDI) and have partnered with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd. (TSE:4502).

by Weill Cornell Medical College
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Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, Inc. Launched by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College, and Partnership Formed with Takeda

Pioneering Collaboration with Research-Based Global Pharmaceutical Company to Conduct Early-Stage Drug Discovery

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NEW YORK (Oct. 1, 2013) — Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College announced Oct. 1 that they have formed the pioneering Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, Inc. (Tri-I TDI) and have partnered with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd. (TSE:4502). This new, groundbreaking institute, designed to expedite early-stage drug discovery into innovative treatments and therapies for patients, was founded thanks to a generous $15 million gift by Lewis and Ali Sanders and a $5 million gift from Howard and Abby Milstein.

The Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute represents a novel partnership of academic institutions working together to more effectively develop therapeutics that arise from discoveries made in basic science labs. Its focus is on the early stages of developing compounds that make possible all-important "proof of concept" studies — those that increase the likelihood that targeting a specific biologic pathway can favorably alter the course of a disease. Furthermore, the institute's partnership with Takeda, a global research-based pharmaceutical company with a strong record of bringing new medicines to market, will benefit drug discovery work at all three institutions. "We are excited to help contribute to solving an important societal problem: how to improve the efficiency of drug development. The process is currently fragmented, with many wasteful steps, on top of the structural, intellectual and funding barriers that have made it so difficult to translate basic research into clinical application," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "With academia and industry working together closely, guiding each other in the laboratory, we have a better chance to translate research discoveries into lasting medical contributions and to do so with far greater efficiency. We are privileged to have Takeda, a proven leader in pharmaceutical development, join with us at this momentous occasion, as the Tri-I TDI begins its work speeding discoveries to the bedside. We thank Takeda for its forward-thinking vision, and applaud Mr. Sanders and Mr. Milstein for their commitment to drive innovation and discovery with their generous support."

"This institute will greatly enhance the ability of basic science labs at the three institutions to translate their discoveries into new medicines," said Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University. "This exciting collaboration between academic institutions will also serve as a link between institutional researchers and industry experts in medicinal chemistry, compound screening and drug development. It's a partnership that will help lower barriers in the drug discovery process and ultimately lead to new therapies for some of our most difficult and deadly diseases."

"This unique research collaboration will promote greater efficiency in translating our best ideas about the development of new drugs into treatments for a variety of diseases, including cancer," said Memorial Sloan-Kettering President and CEO Dr. Craig B. Thompson. "It provides an exciting new model for academic-industrial collaboration, one that will allow us to get innovative therapies to patients quickly and economically."

Leaders from Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Takeda display a proclamation on Oct. 1 that officially establishes the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute. Photo credit: Richard Lobell  

"Drug discovery is a remarkably complex undertaking that constantly pushes at the frontiers of science," said Dr. Tadataka Yamada, Takeda's director and chief medical and scientific officer. "At Takeda, we believe that the greatest successes result from partnership, and this collaboration sets a new standard. This industry-academic partnership will combine the spirit of innovation in academia with the resources and talents of industry, and we are confident it will lead to remarkable new insights."

Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute

The independent, nonprofit institute, which will have its own scientific advisory board and board of directors, will build a strong bridge between early-stage research discoveries and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents for myriad health challenges, reflecting the diverse interests of the member institutions' faculty. Projects that will be tackled could range from addressing the developing world's most deadly diseases — tuberculosis and malaria among them — to Alzheimer's, cancer, HIV, heart disease and obesity, to neglected or "orphan" diseases that afflict small numbers of people. The institute will select research projects that hold the greatest scientific promise and present the most innovative hypotheses. Each scientist's home institution will retain its intellectual property. The institute will locate its medicinal chemistry activities on the top floor of the new, state-of-the-art Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell, slated to open in January.

The goal of this innovative collaboration is to enhance both discovery and translational research while also providing high-quality opportunities for training students and post-doctoral fellows, deepening faculty involvement in drug discovery, and supporting translational research by leveraging the expertise of all three academic institutions and Takeda. As the number of new treatments for illnesses that make it to market each year has remained largely flat and at low levels, the Tri-I TDI will pool institutional resources to facilitate the translation of research results — initially in small chemical molecules (the precursor of drugs), and later with biological therapies and molecular imaging — into the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents.

The institute will seek to create intellectual property that can be further developed by an open field of industry collaborators. It also will facilitate more efficient sharing of institutional core facilities while continuing to form industry partnerships with various pharmaceutical companies to further advance research investigations.

The partnership with Takeda is focused on developing small chemical molecules. In an unusual arrangement, medicinal chemists and pharmacologists from Takeda will bring their private sector experience to the academic setting by helping to conduct drug discovery research in the institute's laboratories. Takeda is a research-based global company with its main focus on pharmaceuticals and a world leader in drug development and manufacturing. Candidate drugs may be licensed out to complete the later steps of drug development, such as manufacturing and the conduct of clinical trials. Trials may occasionally be run at the three institutions' clinical and translational science centers and clinical trial offices. The institute is funded through philanthropy and direct contributions from MSKCC, Rockefeller and Weill Cornell.

Philanthropic Engine

A cornerstone of the new institute is the Sanders Innovation and Education Initiative. The initiative provides organizational infrastructure, project management, director salary support, education for a new generation of drug discoverers, and in-lab support of faculty to drive their discoveries and innovations. In addition, it will support the recruitment of the soon-to-be named Sanders Director of the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute.

"This is a powerful approach to create synergies collectively with three institutions and partners in industry," Mr. Sanders said. "I am gratified to be able to support such a novel initiative that will truly make a difference in scientific research and people's lives. It's time in academia to make the giant leap to fill the gap in drug discovery by maximizing collaboration between institutions and the pharmaceutical industry."

A crucial feature of the new institute is the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Medicinal Chemistry. The program will support the recruitment of medicinal chemists, computational chemists and molecular modelers with private-sector experience who will apply their particular expertise to develop promising discoveries made at the bench to the point where pharmaceutical companies will see a high prospect of success in adopting projects and taking them through the later stages of drug development. The Milstein program builds upon the strong foundation of drug-discovery initiatives already established in 2005 with the founding of the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Chemistry Core Facility and the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease at Weill Cornell.

"These three academic medical institutions are on the forefront of a new paradigm in medical research which partners academia, industry and philanthropy to accelerate the discovery of new cures and improve the economics of drug development," Mr. Milstein said. "Becoming a leader in drug discovery is central to their missions to find cures for today's greatest health crises. Bridging the critical gap between the laboratory bench and the patient's bedside, this initiative is designed to improve and save the lives of millions throughout our nation and the world."