University of Michigan $130M Startup Great Lakes Discoveries to Advance Biomedical Research

The University of Michigan has partnered with New York-based Deerfield Management Co., a health care investment firm, on a new company that will commercialize therapeutic projects that hold promise in solving unmet medical needs.
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U-M and Deerfield Management have created Great Lakes Discoveries in an effort to bring medical advancements to market. // Stock photo

The University of Michigan has partnered with New York-based Deerfield Management Co., a health care investment firm, to create a company that will commercialize therapeutic projects that hold promise in solving unmet medical needs.

The new enterprise, Great Lakes Discoveries, won’t operate like a typical startup. At the outset, Deerfield has committed up to $130 million over the next 10 years to invest in biomedical research at U-M with the goal of developing drugs and disease treatments.

“The University of Michigan has a strong legacy of drug discovery and translation,” says Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research at U-M. “This new alliance will allow us to advance these discovery and translational efforts, speeding our path to positive impact.”

Deerfield will offer development expertise to help guide potential treatments in high-need therapeutic areas, as well as for rare diseases. All preclinical stages of drug discovery and development of selected projects will be supported by Great Lakes Discoveries.

“We recognize that scientists at preeminent academic research institutions like the University of Michigan provide much of the novel insights that advance our understanding of disease,” says William Slattery, partner at Deerfield. “However, at any research institution, the most commercially promising innovations eventually outgrow the lab, requiring greater resources and more focused development expertise than an academic setting can typically provide. We’re excited to have the University of Michigan join us in this important initiative.”

Starting in the fall, U-M researchers will be able to submit proposals for review by a Great Lakes committee of scientific leadership representing the university and Deerfield.

“The current health crisis is a painful reminder to never become complacent in our fight against disease,” says James Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield, member of the U-M Life Sciences Institute’s leadership council, and U-M alumnus. “Part of this involves continuously identifying the most important early-stage research and ensuring its advancement in a timely way and without unnecessary barriers. I’m confident that the University of Michigan shares this goal as we join forces to catalyze the development of novel therapeutics and save lives. With its vast research platform, the University of Michigan is the ideal partner, and we look forward to the innovations that we expect this alliance will bring.”

Selected projects will be provided funding and operational support by Deerfield for a development plan aimed at achieving Investigational New Drug readiness. Successful projects that achieve the status may be eligible for additional capital from Deerfield. Great Lakes Discovery, in exchange for funding, would receive an option to license intellectual property that is developed at U-M under this agreement.

“The University of Michigan has one of the most massive academic therapeutic pipelines in the world, with 14 drug candidates currently in various stages of clinical trials and over 130 preclinical drug discovery, drug repurposing, and novel drug target validation programs underway in our labs across campus,” says Kelly Sexton, associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships, whose office will oversee the alliance. “This funding will help us to realize the promise of this pipeline.”

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