Duke Launches Drug Spinout with $130M Injection from Investment Firm

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Duke University is launching another drug startup.

The university has teamed up with Deerfield Management, a New York-based health care investment firm, to form a drug spinout company called Four Points Innovation.

The end game: to develop new drugs across a span of high-need therapeutic areas, including those targeting patients who suffer from hard-to-treat and rare diseases.

Deerfield is offering $130 million of initial funding to back the initiative for 10 years.

“This is an exciting day for Duke and the patients we serve,” said Mary E. Klotman, M,D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs.

“This new partnership will help further Duke’s commitment to improve the lives of people in our own community and around the world by supporting and accelerating the translation of research into new therapies to treat and cure society’s most formidable healthcare challenges.”

Kicking off in March

The newly formed company will back research and development projects on Duke’s campus throughout preclinical stages. 

Starting in March, Duke researchers can submit proposals for consideration by a committee of scientific leaders from both Duke and Deerfield.

Accepted projects will include a development plan aimed at achieving Investigational New Drug (IND) readiness. Deerfield will provide funding and operational support for accepted projects. 

Those with IND-enabled status may be eligible for additional capital from Deerfield.

Under the terms of the agreement, Four Points Innovation would receive an option to license Four Points Innovation-funded intellectual property developed at Duke.

A growing trend 

This isn’t the first time Deerfield has embarked on such a partnership. 

In late 2018, the firm teamed up with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, investing $65 million in another drug spinout company, Pinnacle Hill, LLC.

Deerfield’s other partnerships of this type include those with The Broad Institute, the University of California San Diego, and Johns Hopkins, Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities.

James E. Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield Management, said the firm was interested in partnering with Duke because of its “vast research enterprise, world-class investigators and novel innovations.”

“Duke is a leader in biomedical discovery,” he said. “We are excited about entering into this partnership, as we collectively seek to develop new medicines to save lives and address unmet medical needs.” 

Duke is working hard to commercialize its research potential. The university’s Office of Licensing and Ventures broke records with 354 invention disclosures, 120 agreements, and 32 exclusive agreements. Duke faculty and staff formed 16 new startups during 2019, bringing the university’s total to more than 140 new companies. Over the last two years, 29 of the university’s 32 startups have chosen to stay in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has a 35-year history of supporting the state’s life science inventions at universities and institutions statewide. Deerfield’s added investments are expected to boost those entrepreneurial activities.

Chantal Allam, NCBiotech Writer
Mon, 01/06/2020 - 12:04