One of the biggest nonprofit biomedical research outfits in the world is getting a new translational medicine research arm, aimed at speeding the conversion of basic research insights into novel medicines. Yesterday, officials at the Scripps Research Institute announced that it will merge with the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), which was launched in 2012 as a nonprofit version of a drug development company. Both Scripps and Calibr are headquartered in San Diego, California, and led by Scripps chemist Peter Schultz.
In an interview yesterday, Schultz said that he hopes the merger will not only speed the development of new medicines, but that proceeds from any commercial successes will be fed back into the institute’s coffers to bolster future research. “We will generate significant revenues, which will be reinvested in the entire enterprise,” Schultz says. If true, that could be a major boon for Scripps, which has been running in the red for years, as it has struggled to replace declining grant money from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Over the next 2 years, Schultz says Calibr expects to launch clinical trials on eight different medicines, three of which should be ready to go either later this year or in the first quarter of 2017.
The new merger isn’t the first to attempt to marry basic biomedical research with efforts to promote commercialization. Universities and medical schools around the world have established translational research arms in recent years hoping to cash in on basic research discoveries. But such efforts often stumble, Schultz says, because the culture of basic research, which focuses on insights from individual investigators, is often at odds with translational efforts, which require highly integrated teamwork. “We aren’t building from scratch; rather we are integrating the strengths of two proven nonprofit research organizations,” he says.