From Target to Translation
Translation from basic life science research data to drug and agro-biotech innovations is an unpredictable process: while the potential societal gain is high, the success rate is often frustratingly low. At an early stage, the private sector is hesitant to engage because the uncertainties in the approach are too high. They insist on robust target validation, i.e. evidence that modulating specific targets will lead to beneficial effects. On the other hand, companies often don’t have the depth of expertise in the basic biology as we do in VIB.
Facilitating Early Drug & Agro Discovery
The VIB Discovery Sciences team focuses on making specific expertise available to promising projects in VIB labs that are amenable to translation.
In other words, the discovery unit initiates and guides the transformation of scientific insights into projects that could deliver novel therapeutics or agrochemicals.
VIB Discovery Sciences consists of a team of senior industry-trained scientists and technicians that have substantial expertise in many different aspects of translational research, working at research infrastructures in Leuven and Gent. The team is fully embedded in the Innovation & Business unit of VIB and helps design and execute valorization-driven projects.
The team engages in a pro-active way with the VIB scientists and kick-starts early translational work packages after a valorization analysis by the VIB Innovation & Business team.
Intense collaboration with the PI, with the VIB Core Facilities, and external partners with complementary expertise is an essential component of these efforts.
At VIB, we aim to address the unmet societal need and seek non-profit partners such as charities to advance projects that address critical unmet needs neglected by the industry.
Derisking and advancing early findings
The VIB Discovery Sciences team devises and plans early drug and agro product discovery projects, executes in vitro assay development campaigns, and designs and optimizes biologics and small molecule compounds. They take charge of the project management, collaborate with partners with complementary capabilities, and design proof-of-concept studies around novel candidate products. Also, the team consults with the wider VIB ecosystem on different aspects of drug and agro product discovery and evaluates targets and concepts according to industry standards.
Oncurious - In 2015, VIB together with Oxurion founded Oncurious. This spinoff focuses on the development of innovative oncology treatments.
The portfolio of Oncurious is based on the pre-clinical research conducted by the teams of Peter Carmeliet, Massimiliano Mazzone, Gabriele Bergers, and Jo Van Ginderachter. VIB Discovery Sciences takes the lead in the pre-clinical development of the immuno-oncology assets within the company.
Augustine Therapeutics - A drug discovery project for novel targets in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), based on the research of Ludo Van Den Bosch, Joris de Wit and Bart De Strooper. CMT is characterized by the progressive denervation of muscles and affects touch sensation, especially in the extremities. There currently are no specific therapeutics available for this neurological disorder.
Over the last years, the VIB research groups uncovered several biological pathways in peripheral neuropathies that represent promising therapeutic targets for CMT. VIB Discovery Sciences is now taking the project further towards the preclinical development of new therapeutics based on these novel targets. Importantly, the team was able to attract external financing which allows to significantly accelerate the project.
VIB Discovery Sciences doubles as a training ground for young scientists in transition to industry-type activities. PhD graduates learn what makes a good drug target and face questions like: which aspects are relevant to evaluate a novel target, what are the key uncertainties, and which experiments are needed to address these uncertainties? To extend further on this training aspect, the Innovation & Business unit also launched an internship program. Trainees rotate in the different units of the team, including the Discovery Sciences team.
Isabelle Cambré, scientist at VIB Discovery Sciences:
“You have the opportunity to work closely with very knowledgeable people having experience in the biotech industry, who introduce you to the world of antibodies, nanobodies, recombinant proteins and small molecules. They guide and stimulate you towards strategic thinking, target population and pharmacokinetics. You can take project responsibility while designing timelines, determining milestones and collaborating with CROs and partners.”