Networks of Innovation
Vertex believes that collaboration does not have to happen on a large scale to be meaningful and produce results that may lead to future medicines. Beyond our global drug development collaborations, Vertex has established wide ranging research and development networks, with the goal of advancing science toward new breakthrough medicines. These networks include:
- Generating New Ideas in Regenerative Medicine with the McGowan Institute
- A Global Tuberculosis Research Network
- Seeing Safety in the Lab with Ceetox
- Finding Common Ground in Cancer with the United Kingdom Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
- Vertex Scholars Program
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Vertex’s collaboration with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine began in 2011. The collaboration allows Vertex to explore how its traditional expertise in small molecule drug development can be combined with regenerative medicine, a new approach that uses specially grown cells and tissues to treat diseases and injuries. The McGowan Institute, which is part of the University of Pittsburgh, is widely recognized as one of world’s leading innovators in the field of regenerative medicine.
The relationship with McGowan helps Vertex and McGowan scientists maximize research and development efforts. By collaborating with McGowan investigators, Vertex gains access to groundbreaking basic and clinical research, and by collaborating with Vertex, McGowan investigators have the opportunity to translate their research into a pharmaceutical context at a very early stage.
Global Tuberculosis Research Network
Tuberculosis (TB) is a global problem, so Vertex takes a global approach in its TB research network, which includes collaborations with multiple international organizations and scientists. The network is aimed at advancing early research and development to discover new treatments for TB, a disease that kills as many as 4,700 people a day, or 1.7 million people a year, according to World Health Organization estimates.
Vertex announced the formation of its global TB network in 2008. To address the urgent need for shorter therapy and treatment for persistent infections, the network brings together Vertex’s scientific excellence in infectious disease drug discovery with additional chemistry and early biology expertise from academic institutions, hospitals and technologically advanced contract research organizations around the world. This novel approach allows a greater flow of ideas and offers an innovative way to discover new TB medicines.
To date, Vertex has engaged the commitment of multiple TB research organizations and over 60 researchers around the globe. As part of the network, Dr. Eric Rubin and his scientific staff at Harvard University are developing new tools for drug target validation, while Dr. Andrei Osterman and his team of the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute are using these tools to characterize the effects on enzyme pathways and bacterial physiology. Furthermore, Vertex has entered into research collaborations with Dr. David Russell of Cornell University who developed high throughput assays to gain a better understanding of how Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) survives within infected macrophages and to identify new drug targets. Vertex is also working with Dr. Michael Cynamon at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Syracuse, New York to develop improved models that can be used to identify and optimize lead molecules and drug candidates more rapidly than currently used methods, and with Dr. Eric Nuermberger at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland to evaluate inhibitory compounds for their potential to treat TB infection.
Outside the U.S., the Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology (IMB) of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing will bring together several institutes in China, each having expertise in either target-based drug discovery and screening, medicinal chemistry and lead optimization, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, as well as clinical management of tuberculosis and archiving patient isolates of unique local Mtb strains or several advanced preclinical models for TB drug testing. They also will leverage their expertise in natural product chemistry to develop new chemical classes that may help kill multi-drug resistant Mtb strains and shorten the therapeutic regimen. In addition, Vertex has established a dedicated medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics and bioassays unit at ChemPartner in Shanghai, China.
Seeing Safety in the Lab with CeeTox
Is it possible to know the safety profile of some drugs before they are given to patients? Vertex’s collaboration with CeeTox, a privately held company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, may provide an answer. CeeTox has developed a proprietary series of in vitro tests to help determine important characteristics of potential medicines – including safety and pharmacokinetics – at the earliest stages of drug discovery.
Vertex began collaborating with CeeTox in 2006. Incorporating CeeTox’s technology into drug discovery efforts is helping Vertex to select the best potential medicines for clinical testing, as well as to select the best initial doses for evaluation in clinical trials.
Finding Common Ground in Cancer (UK BBSRC)
The United Kingdom Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) provides £200 million to support 7,000 scientists and graduate students in the U.K. Major goals of the BBSRC are to provide unique research training opportunities for students and to bring academia and industry together to advance science and medicine.
In mid-2006, a prestigious BBSRC Ph.D. studentship was awarded to Vertex and the University of Portsmouth to study the role of growth factors and other proteins involved in cell proliferation and cancer. This project uses a new technology partly developed by University of Portsmouth Professor Ian Cree, who is co-supervising the project with scientists at Vertex. Through this collaboration, a University of Portsmouth graduate student will use novel approaches to assess growth mechanisms in human cancers.
Vertex Scholars Program
Vertex believes in the next generation of great scientists and business leaders. Through its Vertex Scholars Program, started in 2006, the company seeks to foster unfettered scholastic research by providing no-strings-attached financial support to academic institutions in geographic areas where we have research and development sites. Participating universities can use the funds to cover tuition and stipends for one or more students involved in doctoral research programs.
The Vertex Scholars Program is also designed to provide an avenue for open dialogue between industry and academia. Through the program, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows have the opportunity to learn about what happens in industry labs while faculty have the opportunity to brainstorm with us about common interests and potential future collaborations.