Tel Aviv University is establishing an innovation center for translational medicine. The aim is to foster a number of drug developments that combine academic research with initial clinical trials, before the product is given to a commercial company, with support and mentoring from leading concerns in the market and an objective assessment by the center's personnel of progress in the project and its practicality.
Three or four projects will enter the center from the university and hospitals affiliated with it (these include hospitals in the central region). At a later stage, the plan is to bring 10 projects a year to the center, each with a total budget of several million dollars, making the center's total budget likely to reach tens of millions of dollars a year. The university is searching for donors and investors for the center, which will be launched next Thursday.
Another plan is to open the door to ventures from other universities and hospitals not connected to the university at a later stage.
The head of the center will be Tel Aviv University Cancer Biology Research Center chairperson Prof. Dan Peer. Peer explains that the center's goal is to strengthen the Israeli drug industry. He himself is involved in a company names Quiet Therapeutics that was founded in Israel, but is now located in the US. He would be glad to see companies like it being founded and remaining in Israel, if possible.
Peer says that as of now, more than 10,000 diseases are known to medicine, but doctors have only 500 families of drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat them. At the same time, due to difficult development and supervision processes, the rate at which new drugs are joining the global pool is extremely slow, and the length of time between the discovery or invention of a new drug in institutions of higher learning and its reaching the industry is 15 years.
According to Peer, this situation is a result of inexperience among academic researchers and in hospitals in turning scientific discoveries into real drugs. At the center, which was inspired by a venture named Sparks at Stanford University that has also been aiming at the same goal since 2006, a comprehensive study of projects will be conducted, including reproduction of trial results by an external party, after which volunteer mentoring services will be provided by drug development specialists (including specialists from Sparks). Prof. Daria Mochly-Rosen, the Israeli founder of Sparks, will attend the launch event for the center.
The center plans to bring the drugs up to Phase I clinical trials. This stage will be planned so that it will produce both safety results and initial effectiveness results. The goal is to commercialize the drugs after this stage, under the assumption (which appears very logical, given Spark's results) that bringing the drugs forward to a later stage will increase the chances that they will be commercialized, and also make the development process easier for the drug companies.
Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter says, "This unique model fosters innovative ideas from all fields of medicine, including outlandish ideas that are liable to appear too risky for business investors." Peer says that the venture is prepared to accept daring high-risk projects in addition to projects with less risk, for example those dealing with new uses for existing drugs.
The launching conference for the venture is scheduled for February 1, 2018, after which an initial call will be issued to researchers from all over the campus and doctors at the affiliated hospitals. All of the proposals submitted to the venture will be examined by a committee of international experts.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 30, 2018
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