In a move expected to stop two gaps with one bush, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)—one of the biggest nonprofit biomedical research outfits in the country—has agreed to a strategic affiliation with the California Institute for Biomedical Research, a nonprofit version of a drug development company.
A strategic affiliation between organizations means they aren't quite merged, as they often remain legally separate and independent, but will share resources and revenue. In this case, the affiliation creates a highly successful research organization with an established translational medicine branch, enabling the rapid conversion of basic scientific discoveries into life-saving drugs.
According to Scripps, the integration of basic scientific and translational research will reduce the costs associated with the early stages of drug development, and lead to the creation of a self-sustaining model for nonprofit research in which drug development successes drive the funding of new scientific discoveries and medicines.
The new affiliation will also accelerate the drug discovery and development timeline. Scripps currently has 10 approved medicines to its name, each of which took more than 20 years to move from drug discovery to market. That will no longer be the case with this union.
“The affiliation between TSRI and Calibr is the first of its kind. Unlike other research institutes and universities that have sought to establish translational capabilities within academic centers, we aren’t building from scratch—rather, we are integrating the strengths of two proven nonprofit organizations, enabling TSRI to remain committed to basic biological and chemical discovery and the understanding of disease processes, while turning these insights into innovative new medicines for unmet needs ranging from cancer and degenerative disease to childhood and neglected diseases through the affiliation with Calibr,” said Peter Schultz, the president of both organizations. “Ultimately, I believe this ‘bench-to-bedside’ model has the potential to become self-sustaining, with the value we create being reinvested back into research, education and additional clinical studies.”
This new “self-sustaining” model is especially important to TSRI, who has been operating in the red for years, ever since the National Institutes of Health pulled back on its awarded grant money.
To date, Calibr has generated a pipeline of candidate medicines for a number of disease areas, creating opportunities to move five to 10 new molecules into the clinic within the next two years. The proceeds of any commercial success from these medicines will be fed back into research efforts at the combined institute; thus creating a cycle in which successful drugs make a profit to fuel basic research, which finds additional molecules to exploit for future candidate medicines and marketable drugs.
TSRI and Calibr have collaborated on research programs in the past, leading to several candidate therapies, two of which Calibr has partnered with major pharmaceutical companies in order to market. But, the formal affiliation will help reduce overhead. Now, the two organizations will share a combined Board of Directors, as well as scientific and administrative resources that will be consolidated over time. Schultz will be overseeing the integration of the two institutes.
Schultz was appointed CEO and vice-chair of TSRI in September 2015 after a series of leadership changes and a merger gone wrong. In July 2014, then-president Michael Maarletta left TSRI after a faculty revolt against a merger deal with the University of Southern California. At the time of the failed merger, Naturereported that Scripps was running an operating deficit of $21 million annually.