Bayer HealthCare (Bayer AG, Xetra: BAYN, Leverkusen, Germany) and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, have announced the establishment of a formal collaborative partnership to discover and develop therapies for retinal disease. According to details provided in a joint press release, the university has granted Bayer an exclusive, worldwide option to all intellectual property arising from discovery and development projects in the field of therapeutics targeting retinal disorders. Bayer and the university will both contribute personnel and infrastructure at the Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore and at Bayer facilities “to discover new targets, disease mechanisms, drug delivery technologies and biomarkers”. The agreement is understood to focus on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema (DME), geographic atrophy, Stargardt’s disease and retinal vein occlusion (RVO). The parties did not disclose any financial terms in respect of the value of the option or milestones or what specific level of investment would be made in the academic research centre.
The collaborative move is representative of a growing trend where large industrial partners and academic research centres are encouraged to work together more closely, leveraging each others’ strengths in pursuit of a common goal. The Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins brings world class research capabilities to the multinational drugs company, while Bayer provide a tier 1 global pharmaceutical operation with a considerable market interest and expertise in ophthalmology coupled with the experience to develop and commercialise opportunities in the market. Unfortunately, as no financial details were disclosed, it may be difficult for other interested parties to understand how such deals might work and if such collaborations should be pursued more aggressively. Often industry and academe can appear to function on different wavelengths however, the current transaction demonstrates that bringing two very different organisations together can create a win-win situation, with patients as the ultimate beneficiary. If and when new and affordable treatments reach the market faster than would have occurred by working in isolation then more widespread adoption of the model can be expected.
Commenting on the 5-year agreement, Professor Andreas Busch, Head of Global Drug Discovery and a member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare stated, “Bayer is strongly committed to further expanding its research efforts in the area of retinal diseases. The Wilmer Eye Institute’s deep understanding of eye disease biology and patient care and Bayer’s expertise in drug discovery and development in ophthalmology complement each other perfectly. We are pleased to partner with this renowned institute which is among the leading scientific and clinical institutions in ophthalmology worldwide.” Equally supportive of the development, Prof. Peter J. McDonnell, Director of the Wilmer Eye Institute said, “There is a critical need for new therapies that treat a variety of serious diseases of the eye. Additional research will allow us the opportunity to make significant advances in this area.”