A generous $15 million commitment from Philip and Sima Needleman, longtime benefactors of Washington University in St. Louis, will enable WashU to leverage its expertise in biomedical discovery to boost drug development. The Needleman Program for Innovation and Commercialization (NPIC) will bridge the gap between the identification of promising therapeutic targets in the laboratory and the initiation of clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of investigational drugs.
Traditionally, it has been immensely challenging to advance potential drug candidates identified in the laboratory into early-stage clinical trials, because this work requires substantial funding not available to academic researchers through traditional sources. The program will provide new support during this critical window in the drug development process.
“We extend our deepest thanks to Philip and Sima Needleman for their tremendous generosity in supporting drug discovery efforts at the School of Medicine and across the university,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “This new program in drug development will provide the support and resources necessary to bring the most promising discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic, where they can help patients. Dr. Philip Needleman’s own career at the intersection of basic academic research and commercial drug development is a great example of the type of innovation and entrepreneurship this new program aims to cultivate.”
For a small number of annually selected projects, the Needleman Program for Innovation and Commercialization (NPIC) will provide funding to validate drug targets, perform pharmacokinetics and conduct extensive testing in model systems, with the goal of moving promising therapeutics to the stage where the Food and Drug Administration grants investigational new drug (IND) status. In some cases, the new center will support initial clinical trials as well. The new program complements and extends the university’s existing efforts in drug development and commercialization — drawing on a culture of innovative discoveries aimed at improving human health.
The Needleman program also will provide much of the same infrastructure as a typical startup venture, including financial support, project management, external drug development funding, as well as mentoring in business and intellectual property management.
“Philip and Sima Needleman have provided profound support for research and innovation at Washington University and have advanced our capabilities in drug discovery and commercialization,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “This new program will strengthen our ecosystem of drug development with knowledge and resources necessary to nurture novel drug development, licensing and commercialization efforts. We look forward to harnessing these new resources, together with Phil’s personal guidance and boundless enthusiasm, to transform Washington University and St. Louis into a national hub for drug discovery and innovation.”