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Sigma-Aldrich, TSRI partner to commercialize research reagents
ST. LOUIS—In what is said to be the first partnership of its kind between a research institute and a reagents company, Sigma-Aldrich Corp. and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) will fund research and provide immediate, day-of-publication access to TSRI researchers' discoveries for the synthesis and analysis of potential drugs. The partners hope to eliminate months from the translation of cutting-edge chemistry into widespread applications for drug discovery.
"We are investing in TSRI to bring a suite of products and technology platforms to the market," says Amanda Halford, vice president of academic research at Sigma-Aldrich.
Traditionally, she notes, bringing new reagents to market has been a laborious process involving a survey of the literature for molecules of interest and then finding a way to commercialize the products. Six to 12 months was typically required.
"We asked, 'How can we help make new molecules available more quickly?'" Halford says. "Scripps has attractive capabilities," she adds, including a great chemistry department with a history of innovations.
TSRI approached Sigma-Aldrich to eliminate the delay between the invention of novel reagents and reliable, widespread access to those reagents for the translational research community.
"The hurdles from bench to clinic, what the NIH calls the 'valley of death,' are proving difficult to surmount, leaving numbers of potential therapeutic ideas trapped inside university doors. To clear these hurdles, it's critical to open a myriad of novel technologies, such as these from TSRI, to the whole translational research community," Halford states.
The partnership includes six TSRI research labs led by Profs. Phil Baran, Jin-Quan Yu, Benjamin Cravatt, Carlos Barbas, Phillip Dawson and Nobel Laureate K. Barry Sharpless. TSRI will receive funds to be used to expand capacity for basic research.
"This is the third major deal in our new targeted partnership strategy, following recent agreements with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers Squibb," says Scott Forrest, vice president of business development at TSRI. "These multilab, multiyear alliances fund research and infrastructure in areas of mutual interest, creating a win-win situation for moving innovations into the marketplace. We are pleased to partner with the world's leading reagent company to accelerate the commercialization of new research tools for the scientific community."
Novel reagents developed by the six TSRI labs will be commercialized exclusively by Sigma-Aldrich via a master licensing agreement. This will allow open access to new reagents by chemists and also scientists who do not have a background in chemical synthesis, which in the past limited their ability to implement novel reagents in their research.
Last year, TSRI and Sigma-Aldrich established a partnership to produce in bulk a toolkit of 10 novel zinc-based salts discovered in the Baran lab, including the Baran difluoromethylation reagent that several large pharmaceutical companies immediately adopted for optimizing lead compounds.
"We expect the new agreement will launch an ongoing process over a long collaboration as we learn how work together," says TSRI's Forrest. "The majority of the molecules developed will be similar to the zinc-based salts—catalysts to derivatize heterocycles, adding functional groups within a ring."
The collaboration will be interactive, he notes, with regular working visits between St. Louis and TSRI's headquarters in La Jolla, Calif. Publications of new reagents developed in the six TSRI labs will include a Sigma-Aldrich product number for simple reference.