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Johns Hopkins partners with investment firm, gets $65M to invest in drug tech

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 22nd, 2017

A new incubator at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) will help turn promising research into FDA-approved therapeutics, using a $65 million fund supplied via a new partnership with an investment firm. The deal gives Hopkins researchers a ready source of funding to make the long haul from early-stage research to the marketplace. The plan is to nurture new therapies longer, de-risk them in-house, and thus command more lucrative deals as new drugs reach later stages of maturity.

Supported by $65 million from Deerfield Management, Bluefield Innovations is aimed at capitalizing on JHU’s excess of promising yet dormant early-stage research.

“There’s an enormous amount of fertile discovery sitting there lying fallow at our most prominent institutions,” says Jim Flynn, managing partner at Deerfield.

With its investment in the Bluefield incubator, Deerfield will have control over any biotech assets that emerge. “We’ll ultimately decide where it ends up,” says Flynn. “Whether that’s at the university, a biotech spinout, or perhaps in better hands with a pharmaceutical company.”

JHU will still be a part of the decision making process and will “profit adequately” if a product is eventually sold, says Flynn.

While these kinds of programs are becoming increasingly popular — sponsored biotech accelerators with likely big payoffs — some worry that they might have a negative impact on the regional life sciences economy.

“I can see a program like this diminishing the number of start-ups and small businesses that the university works with,” says Dave Gibbons, a tech licensing manager at UC San Diego. “If we were to hang onto an asset, the likely buyer will be Big Pharma. Yes, you’ve got a more valuable asset, but that means you price out smaller players we traditionally work with. And what will that mean for the local economy?”

According to Flynn, the reality is less simple. “We’re sensitive to local biotechs and the Baltimore community, but the way I see it is that there’s too much fruit on the table. There’s more at Johns Hopkins than we can possible handle ourselves,” he says. “You want these programs to take their best course forward — the one most likely to get a drug in a patient’s hand. And sometimes that’s not small biotech.”

Source: Endpoints News

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