Professor Kristian HelinProfessor Kristian Helin, the founder and director of BRIC.Photo courtesy of the University of CopenhagenEpiTherapeutics, a Danish firm that develops medicine using biomedical research conducted at the University of Copenhagen, was today sold to an American drug maker for 444 million kroner. EpiTherapeutics’ products are based on basic research in epigenetics, the study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. The firm’s research could lead to important advances in the treatment of cancer and other serious illnesses.

Until being purchased yesterday by Gilead Sciences, EpiTherapeutics was owned by University of Copenhagen researchers together with Novo Seeds, Lundbeck Fonden Emerge, SEED Capital and Merck Serono Venture. The University of Copenhagen does not have a stake in EpiTherapeutics, but the firm was established in 2008 through a licencing agreement with the University.

"We set up EpiTherapeutics after identifying a new protein family in my lab at the University. The discovery gave us a unique opportunity to create a bridge between the basic research being conducted into cancer and the development of pharmaceuticals. This has led to both new job creation and investments," says Kristian Helin, the EpiTherapeutics CSO and a professor at the University of Copenhagen.

The sale is an example of how the University’s basic biomedical research can benefit society – both through the development of new pharmaceuticals as well as through new funding for research.

"This is a big day for Danish biomedical research. The sale of EpiTherapeutics has shown that it is possible to turn the world-class research being conducted at the University into something of practical value and, eventually, into something that will benefit people who are suffering from illnesses," says Martin Bonde, the chief executive of EpiTherapeutics.