A $65 million health care investment

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The Empire Discovery Institute is expected to receive up to $65 million from health care investment firm Deerfield Management Co. The public-private partnership is aimed at speeding research discoveries into new therapies through a newly launched company, Empire-Deerfield Discovery and Development.

Established a few years ago, EDI works in partnership with research labs at the University of Rochester, the University at Buffalo, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The accelerator began with the goal to convert discoveries into new medicines for commercialization by providing funds, support and pharmaceutical development know-how. EDI is backed by $35.4 million in state funds from Empire State Development.

Eric Gertler, acting commissioner and president and CEO-designate of ESD, says the state’s investment is a move to keep New York at the forefront of life science research and commercialization.

ED3 funding and support is expected to be made available for projects evaluated by EDI and Deerfield in high-need therapeutic areas, as well as those targeting patients who suffer from hard-to-treat and rare diseases, to accelerate them toward clinical validation in patients and commercialization, officials say. 

Deerfield has more than 200 private and public investments in the life science, medical device, diagnostic, digital health and health service industries. These investments include businesses at various stages, including startups. As of December 2020, the firm managed more than $14 billion in assets.

Deerfield’s investment in ED3 will be spread over five years.

“EDI was founded to help overcome the key challenges often faced by life science researchers in academia, namely a lack of external funding to advance pre-clinical development and access to pharmaceutical industry expertise to advance programs in an efficient manner to the clinic,” says Martin Graham, CEO of the Empire Discovery Institute. “Our partnership with Deerfield will enable us to accelerate our mission to identify medically important targets for human disease to facilitate the creation and development of novel, highly differentiated new therapeutics.”

Graham joined the institute in April 2019. He has convened a scientific advisory board with members from the pharmaceutical industry. The board has experience in areas including drug discovery and design, medicinal chemistry, drug formulation, pharmacology, toxicology and drug product commercialization. 

EDI plans to spot medically important pathways and targets related to diseases that will serve as the foundation for discovery and development of new therapies.

Last year, EDI announced $4.5 million in funding for its first cohort of recipients under the institute’s Medicines Discovery Award Program, which included UR research programs. 

“The new investment by Deerfield will strengthen this unique partnership between research institutions in Rochester and Buffalo, help accelerate the process of bringing new drugs to market, and position Western New York and the Finger Lakes as a hub for life sciences research,” says Mark Taubman M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center.  

Starting in May, ED3 will begin accepting proposals on a rolling basis. Applications for the 2021 round of the Medicines Discovery Award Program is expected to open this summer. 

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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