DKFZ and Bayer: A partnership in drug discovery and development

Prof. Otmar Wiestler, Chairman and Scientific Director of DKFZ (left), and Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, responsible for Innovation, Technology, and Environment, signing the cooperation agreement

The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Bayer are collaborating in a strategic alliance in the field of oncologic drug discovery and development since 2008. This cooperation is intended to foster and to expedite translation of research findings into therapeutic development and/or medical applications. To reach this goal, the partners provide dedicated support to projects which are in the transition from basic research to early drug discovery. The cooperation involves shared financing of joint projects: up to 6 million Euros in total per year are provided for such projects. Financial terms, confidentiality issues, management of intellectual property rights and the commercial exploitation of joint findings are covered by a detailed framework agreement. As a consequence, scientists on both sides do not have to worry about these issues, which leaves them free to concentrate on their scientific work. Furthermore, novel project ideas can be picked-up quickly to start a joint project.  In addition, fee-for-service projects, exclusively funded by Bayer, may be initiated.

In 2013, the alliance partners extended their successful collaboration by a joint laboratory. In this lab, the partners work on more advanced projects in the area of immune-oncology (“Joint Immunotherapeutics Lab”). For these projects, the partners jointly invest up to 2.5 Million Euros per year.

To initiate joint translational projects, the partnership also supports the exchange of ideas and promotes personal contacts between DKFZ and Bayer scientists. Mutual visits or joint organisation of scientific events are examples of scientific exchange and dialogue. Once a joint project has been started, the mixed, interdisciplinary teams intensively cooperate in the form of project meetings and joint completion of the project plan. Depending on the project plan, a temporary research stay at Bayer in Berlin or Wuppertal can be envisaged.

The alliance is managed by three joint committees with equal representation of DKFZ and Bayer members. They decide on project selection, funding, and duration of projects. Joint decision making ensures that only those projects are funded that include scientific questions and promises for pharmaceutical development, and as such are interesting for both sides to follow-up.
Up to now, 46 joint projects have been initiated, of which 23 have already reached first milestones in early pharmaceutical development. The most advanced project entered a first clinical trial in July 2016, another project in the area of immunotherapy is planned to enter clinical testing in 2018.

For questions, please contact the DKFZ-Bayer Alliance Manager.

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