Accelerating Breakthrough Discoveries into Medicines

BioMotiv Blog

Advantages of Collaborations between Academics and Accelerators

By: Maria Oldenburg

Will Charles, Auckland Uniservices

Will Charles, Auckland Uniservices

Translating a scientific discovery into a marketed drug is a long and difficult process, and it requires years of development. Academic institutions play a fundamental role in this process because they foster the research and validation of novel and unique early-stage discoveries, and they help to align support, funding, and technical facilities for their researchers. However, as assets move through the commercialization process, there are significant advantages to partnering with experienced biotech accelerators.

Many of BioMotiv’s portfolio companies are the result of successful collaborations with academic institutions in the United States and worldwide. SapVax, a cancer immuno-therapy company creating a platform of self-adjuvanting synthetic long peptide vaccines, was formed as a collaboration between BioMotiv and the University of Auckland, in New Zealand.  Founded in December 2016, SapVax is advancing the discoveries of Dame Margaret Brimble and Professor Rod Dunbar, two distinguished professors and researchers at Auckland.

Since 2016, the relationship between BioMotiv and Auckland UniServices—the technology transfer office at the University of Auckland—has only strengthened. Drs. Brimble and Dunbar serve as key strategic consultants for SapVax, and Will Charles, the Director of Commercialization of Auckland UniServices, serves on SapVax’s Board of Managers. I spoke with Will to identify some of key advantages he has experienced as the direct result of this partnership.

What are the advantages for an academic institution to partner with a biotech accelerator like BioMotiv through the drug development process?
The biggest advantage to working with BioMotiv is the human capital and expertise it brings to the table. BioMotiv’s team is highly experienced in drug development with decades of pharma experience. Because of this history, its people also understand the academic environment and are “sympatico” with the academic community. BioMotiv also brings to the table a strong network of potential investors and partners from pharma, biotech, and venture capital fields.

Another advantage that sets BioMotiv apart is the fact that it is willing to put in early stage capital to its assets and take high risk when it invests, which is not common in the drug development world!

How has Auckland’s partnership with BioMotiv accelerated the development of Rod and Margaret’s cancer vaccine platform, from your perspective?
The expertise and funds that BioMotiv contributed have been very valuable for the development of our cancer vaccine technology. Auckland has its own funds, but the opportunity to have a knowledgeable third party like BioMotiv invest and manage the asset really confirms the potential of our technology, which is priceless. Without this validation, there’s always a small fear that assets we think are good are still far from the market.

Have there been any surprises or learnings you’ve encountered after working with a company based in the USA?
Actually, Auckland does a lot of business and partnerships in the United States between all our assets. New Zealand is far from major markets, so we’re used to working in different cultures and environments – we are in business in over 50 countries now, so nothing really surprises us anymore. Drug development is a very global industry, but it does have a broad base in the United States.

Click here to learn more about SapVax.

Erin Reese