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Words Of A Winner

The winner of The Medicine Maker 2015 Innovation Awards was LEO Pharma’s Open Innovation platform. Under the free-to-use research platform, launched in March 2015, researchers can submit their compounds to LEO Pharma for testing with propriety assays for psoriasis and eczema. You can read the full story behind the platform on The Medicine Maker website here.One year on from winning our inaugural Innovation Awards, we caught up with Niclas Nilsson, Head of R&D Open Innovation at LEO Pharma, for an update on how the scientific community is responding to the platform.

What’s the latest with the platform?

We’ve done some tweaking to the platform – mainly the contractual details – but it’s now well established in our research organization. As of October 2016, we have engaged with 23 biotech companies and 10 universities. For a medium-sized pharmaceutical company, I think this is excellent progress – and it has created many external opportunities.

We really appreciate all of our partners who have engaged with us and submitted their molecules, and we regret that we have to send a lot of negative results back! Even negative results, however, can provide valuable scientific and strategic feedback and I think that the platform is a valuable matchmaking opportunity to find external partners.

What success stories can you share?

As a direct result of the scientific data generated by the platform, we have identified a few external partners with whom we are following up with more specific activities. In one example, two new targets that are involved in advanced in vitro disease models have been identified – targets that we didn’t even know existed! It is unclear how this eventually will translate to patients, but that’s a general problem we always face in drug research.

In a second example, we received new chemistry that will jointly allow us to better evaluate the relevance of a previously known, but inaccessible target (because of a functional tool compounds and chemistry for biological experimentation).

In both cases, we now have the opportunity to expand our early drug research pipeline and disease understanding. The external partner benefits by increasing the value of their assets, as well as having the opportunity to help advance their technology further.

What about future developments?

We are very excited about open innovation and currently looking at how we can expand the scope and use of our platform. For example, we would like to provide a platform that works as an open source community, allowing all potential partners to interact and exchange needs and opportunities. The details behind this are being considered. If all goes well, we will probably see a step-by-step introduction, starting with a rework of the web portal in early 2017.

Given that the current platform is very well geared towards identifying new molecular pipeline opportunities, we would also like to enable collaborative research, with the aim of progressing disease understanding on a biological level. For this purpose, the platform will also need to address cellular targets and disease pathways. This is something we can do today using tool compounds and chemical probes, but we would like to strengthen this together with academic researchers.

Furthermore, we would like to be able to provide testing of modalities other than small molecules by perhaps opening up for external suppliers of, for example, antibodies, peptides and larger molecules – and perhaps even genes, cells and other completely new technologies that could become tomorrow’s solutions to today’s unmet medical needs.

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