INDIANAPOLIS — A research institute centered at the Indiana University School of Medicine has launched a new organization to spark innovative collaborations across academic research centers and the biopharmaceutical industry.
The program, called the Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium for Translational Medicine, or SPARC, has been established by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, a $60 million National Institutes of Health-funded collaboration among IU, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame. Inaugural members include the Indiana CTSI and several universities with academic medical centers also supported by NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards, as well as two major pharmaceutical companies, Eli Lilly and Co. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc.
“SPARC will provide a platform for research projects that build upon the unique strengths of academia and industry,” said Anantha Shekhar, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and associate vice president for university clinical affairs at IU. “This new organization will combine the best aspects of both groups, in both basic discovery and compound development, to unlock a new model for innovation.”
Spearheaded by the Indiana CTSI, SPARC was born in July 2012 when the institute hosted a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss potential partnerships among 17 directors of CTSA-funded centers, university technology transfer officers and industry. The inaugural CTSA-funded institutions to join the consortium are:
The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science.
Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.
The Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
IU, Purdue and Notre Dame will participate in the program through their affiliation with the Indiana CTSI.
The consortium will initially focus on advancing research on autoimmune diseases because of the high concentration of expertise on the topic among partnership members and the lack of other large-scale consortiums focused on the topic.
Potential other projects could include identifying target mechanisms for new medicines or advancing the emerging field of personalized medicine, which uses genetics to determine the most effective treatment for a specific patient population.
The consortium’s industrial partners will provide financial sponsorship to the projects, which will be selected by an independent governance council that includes equal representation for each member. The academic members will contribute to the group through mechanisms such as pooling resources and cost sharing. The inaugural members of the consortium have committed to support the funded research for at least five years.
“Academic collaborations have become an increasingly important component of the pharmaceutical industry’s overall innovation strategy,” said Andrew Dahlem, Ph.D., vice president of operations for Lilly Research Laboratories at Eli Lilly and Co. “We are pleased to be partnering on SPARC, which envisions a unique approach to this consortium, focused on creating the ability to identify, fund and implement research projects proposed by scientific teams that span multiple institutions, each with distinct capabilities and strengths.”
“This consortium holds such potential to further our understanding of disease biology in humans and to work on projects of mutual interest to advance translational medicine,” said Jamie Dananberg, M.D., head of the R&D therapeutic area group at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. “We look forward to the partnerships with fellow industry members and academia to address scientific and technological research challenges.”
“The possibilities are as limitless as the imaginations of the many talented researchers and scientific leaders who work at the universities and businesses that comprise this partnership,” added Dr. Shekhar, also associate dean for translational medicine and the Raymond Houck Professor of Psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine. “We’ve purposely structured the consortium in a manner that allows partners beyond the initial membership to join later on, creating a system that can grow or change to meet almost any challenge.”
Translational medicine is the art of taking results from medical research conducted in the lab and academic clinics into safe and innovative new treatments and therapies used to treat patients in general medical practice. The consortium will leverage the strengths and unique capabilities of its members to tackle large-scale translational medicine projects that require multi-instructional, multi-expert collaborations across the public and private sectors.
The new consortium represents an important step in the evolution of the Indiana CTSI, one of more than 60 centers established by the NIH to increase emphasis on translating basic research to clinical application to improve human health. Over the past six years, the Indiana CTSI worked to successfully streamline funding mechanisms across the state’s top research institutes to create a powerful translational research pipeline across Indiana. SPARC represents an extension of this pipeline beyond the state’s borders through connections with business as well as other CTSA centers working towards similar goals across the country.
The new consortium was facilitated in part by Biocrossroads, an Indianapolis-based organization that connects corporations, academic institutions and philanthropic organizations to advance the state’s strengths in the life sciences.
About the Indiana CTSI
The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute is a statewide collaboration of Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame to facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries in the lab into new patient treatments in Indiana and beyond. It was established in 2008 with a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health totaling $60 million (TR000006, TR000163 and TR000162), with additional support from the state, the three member universities, and public and private partners. It is a member of the national network of 60 CTSA-funded organizations across the country.