Bridge Medicines Launched to Advance Promising Early Technologies in Major Academic Institutions

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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medicine have announced that they have established a new drug discovery company called Bridge Medicines. Launched in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd and health-care investment firms Bay City Capital and Deerfield Management, Bridge Medicines is an initiative that completes a seamless, fully funded, and professionally staffed path from concept to drug candidate to efficiently and rapidly develop innovative therapeutics for treating human diseases.

Bridge Medicines builds upon the work of the independent, nonprofit Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, known as Tri-I TDI. Scientists at the Tri-I TDI, which launched in 2013, are working in the laboratory on approximately 50 early-stage drug discovery projects—spanning therapeutic areas including infectious disease, oncology, neuropsychiatry, and rare diseases—with the hope that they might be translated into future treatments for patients.

Typical Drug Development

Research projects accepted into the Tri-I TDI will now be able to graduate to Bridge Medicines, where they will be given financial, operational, and managerial support to move seamlessly from a validating, proof-of-concept study to an in-human clinical trial. Typically, investigators behind promising early-stage discoveries must search for a biopharmaceutical company to purchase or license their intellectual property or find a funding opportunity to support additional research. This process can be time-consuming and may shift investigators’ focus away from science.

“The launch of Bridge Medicines is a truly exciting development in New York’s biotechnology space,” said Michael Foley, PhD, Sanders Director of the Tri-I TDI. “We’re tapping into the distinguished talent at Sloan Kettering, Rockefeller, and Weill Cornell Medicine and offering entrepreneurs access to support what’s next in biopharmaceuticals. Bridge Medicines will enable us to advance promising projects farther down the development pipeline, providing new therapies to patients as quickly as possible.”

In current drug-development models, intellectual property is often sold or licensed to a pharmaceutical company when it is still a basic compound or antibody. This early stage is fraught with risk; companies may choose to discontinue a project if it doesn’t meet expectations during the clinical trial process—or the project may not find funding at all. The Tri-I TDI program reflects a different paradigm: principal investigators collaborate with medicinal chemists from Takeda to demonstrate the therapeutic viability of new compounds through preclinical proof-of-concept studies.

Investment Model

Any project successfully graduating from Tri-I TDI is eligible to enter Bridge Medicines, where it can continue along the drug development pipeline without interruption and be professionally managed in a venture capital setting. This includes projects meant to develop drugs to combat diseases such as tuberculosis, which strikes large numbers of people in underdeveloped countries but few people in the Western world, and ­Niemann-Pick type C, which is rare and has a small potential market.

Because Bridge Medicines projects are funded as a group, even some riskier—but potentially transformational—ideas can obtain financial support. The arrangement could shave a decade off of the typical process to go from a promising discovery to medical use.

Bridge Medicines makes this essential portion of the drug development pathway possible with the backing of its investing partners, who assist in the creation of the business and scientific development plans. Projects that are part of the Bridge Medicines portfolio would be supported through filing of an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Once that hurdle is passed, Bridge Medicines would work with the participating scientists to establish and fund biopharmaceutical companies responsible for managing individual projects and advancing them to clinical trials, with the intention of basing the new companies in New York. These entities would be able to raise additional funds to support research on related targets or engage with another biopharmaceutical company to complete the development process.

“Bridge Medicines’ mission is to increase the odds of successfully developing novel therapeutics to meet the needs of patients while simultaneously helping to build a vibrant biotechnology sector in New York,” Dr. Foley said. ■