Bayer will invest more than $30 million over the next five years to fund collaborative research projects focused on finding new treatments for chronic lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The projects will be developed in a new lab launched in collaboration with the founding members of Partners HealthCare — Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Both are leaders in the field of lung diseases.
The joint lab, located at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, will host more than 20 scientists from the three partner groups.
Research projects will be led by four leading experts: Edwin Silverman, MD, PhD, BWH’s chief of the Channing division of network medicine; Bruce Levy, MD, BWH’s chief of pulmonary and care medicine; Benjamin Medoff, MD, MGH’s chief of pulmonary and critical care; and Markus Koch, PhD, Bayer’s head of lung diseases preclinical research.
This collaboration will combine Bayer’s expertise in drug discovery and development with the clinical expertise, understanding of disease mechanisms, data analysis capabilities, and insights from the physician-scientists at BWH and MGH.
“Our investigators have unique expertise in cell and molecular biology of lung disease, genetics, imaging, and bioinformatics, which complement the expertise Bayer investigators additionally have in drug development, pharmacology, and medicinal chemistry,” Silverman said in a Q&A published on the Bayer website.
“We anticipate that we will learn a great deal from each other during this collaboration, and that those complementary strengths will lead to greater progress than either group could make by themselves,” he added.
In the Q&A, Levy emphasized that current treatments are inadequate for COPD — the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. While there are therapies that provide symptomatic relief, there are no treatments targeting the underlying mechanisms of the disease.
“Rather than focusing on developing more bronchodilator medications for COPD, our goal is to develop new types of treatments that focus on disease mechanisms for COPD and interstitial lung disease,” Levy said.
The researchers hope the initiative will speed up treatment development.
“This collaboration provides the opportunity to integrate novel findings directly into the drug development pipeline,” Paul Anderson, MD, PhD, BWH’s senior vice president and chief academic officer, said in a press release. “We strongly believe that this model will significantly accelerate the pace of discovery toward the goal of getting new therapies from the lab to patients safely and efficiently.”
Joerg Moeller, member of the executive committee of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division and head of research and development, believes this collaboration will complement the company’s research, bringing its scientists closer to identifying and provide life-changing therapies for people with chronic lung diseases.
“The joint lab concept continues to be an innovative model for collaboration between academia and industry, enabling novel approaches to drug discovery,” Moeller said.
Rights of any commercially viable findings will be shared equally between Bayer, BMH and MGH.
The new joint lab expands Bayer’s existing footprint in the Boston region. The company last year established its first joint lab in Boston with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to focus on cardiovascular diseases.