Illumina, Deerfield Management Ink Drug Development Partnership

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Genome sequencing leader Illumina and Deerfield Management have announced a unique, five-year partnership that will see both companies take a genetics-led approach to the discovery and development of novel therapies for diseases with unmet medical needs. The deal, which the companies say is a first of its kind, pairs a genomic sequencing and array technology leader with an investment firm to advance new drug targets through the development pipeline.

Deerfield, with more than $14 billion in life sciences and healthcare investments, looks to provide “value beyond capital.” Its Deerfield Discovery and Development (3DC) program seeks to identify commercially promising research from academia and provide model for rapid funding and to help advance and ultimately commercialize promising therapies. The partnership with Illumina intends to apply genomic tools to create genetic knowledge to better identify discoveries with a higher probability of success, while also lowering development costs.

“Currently, drug discovery is difficult, expensive, and slow, with 90% of therapies failing in development due to gaps in the biological understanding of the complex nature of many diseases,” said Joydeep Goswami, chief strategy and corporate development officer at Illumina in a press release announcing the deal. “Deerfield’s vice president of Genetics and Genomics, Matt Nelson, showed in his foundational work that genetic-based targets can improve success rates, speed to market, and cost. Combined with Illumina’s expertise in applying artificial intelligence approaches to target discovery, we intend to drive a step-change in the pace and efficiency of therapeutic development.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Illumina and Deerfield will identify therapeutic targets using Illumina’s target discovery platform that employs Illumina Connected Analytics and AI-driven genome interpretation solutions. Deerfield will provide its expertise in translational science to deliver genetically validated drug candidates through the discovery research phase.

“The next generation of drug discovery will be driven by advances in human genetics, functional genomics, and data science,” added Alex Aravanis, CTO of Illumina. “At Illumina, we have the ability to deeply understand disease biology by generating and interpreting genetic data at massive scale. With Deerfield’s expertise in early-stage drug development, we expect to identify and develop new targets faster and with lower R&D costs, ultimately helping more patients access potentially life-changing therapies.”

Deerfield’s portfolio of investments includes biotechs developing therapeutics across of ranges of indications including oncology, central nervous system/ophthalmology, and rare diseases; software and technology companies providing analytics for the healthcare setting; and diagnostics developers. Many of these early-stage companies potentially stand to benefit from the genomic insights Illumina can deliver.

“Illumina is an innovative global leader in genomics,” said James Flynn, managing partner, Deerfield Management. “Together, with Deerfield’s expertise in translational research, the partnership will fuel advancements from idea to clinic more efficiently with the goal of treating some of the world’s most life-threatening diseases.”

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