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Tuesday, Feb 27, 2024

Salk Inks Partnership Agreement with Autobahn Labs

LIFE SCIENCE: $5M in Funding for Potential Drug Candidates

Discoveries at the Salk Institute that unlock the secrets of life itself now have a clear path to drug development and commercialization thanks to a new partnership with Autobahn Labs.

Autobahn, an early-stage drug discovery incubator, will work with Salk to identify and advance promising initial scientific discoveries through the preliminary steps of drug discovery and development.

Autobahn Labs will invest up to $5 million per project for  Salk  discoveries that require access to drug development expertise and state-of-the art capabilities.

Gerald Joyce, M.D., Ph.D.
Salk Institute

“The strategic and operational support provided by Autobahn Labs will allow us to move forward at an accelerated pace to translate scientific discoveries into new therapeutics,” says  Salk  Institute President Gerald Joyce, M.D., Ph.D. “The beauty of this collaboration is that the most promising findings across different areas of research at  Salk  will have the opportunity to move from the bench to the development of clinical drug candidates. We hope that this collaboration will lead to new therapeutic options for many areas of unmet medical need.”

Ha Nguyen, Ph.D., senior director of Salk’s Office of Technology Development, said the new partnership is “absolutely” a model that will provide Salk research with a translational science benefit without having to move away from the institute’s core mission.

Ha Nguyen, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Office of Technology Development
Salk Institute

“It is a model that is consistent with what we’re interested in doing and helps our research advance into drug development without us breaking too far away from the basic science,” she added.

For example, if Salk discovers interesting target for a disease, Autobahn will then help identify the compound, molecule, gene therapy or antibody against the target and help validate the target with preclinical work “all the way up to the R&D stage,” Nguyen said. “Those are some of the areas Autobahn and this model would be helping to support and facilitate.”

Palo Alto-based Autobahn Labs was founded in 2016 as a technology incubator backed by Samsara BioCapital, KCK Ltd and Evotec SE. Autobahn invests earlier than traditional venture financing models, mostly partnering with individual scientists and research institutes. In addition to Salk, Autobahn has partnerships with UC San Diego, UC San Francisco and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Laurel Hollow, New York.

Thomas Novak
Chief Scientific Officer
Autobahn Labs

“I’m thrilled to be adding  Salk  as our newest partner,” said Thomas Novak, chief scientific officer of Autobahn Labs. “The rigor and potential of the research being performed at  Salk  offers a solid foundation for breakthrough drug discoveries that I believe will enable us together to discover new therapeutic molecules with the potential to transform the lives of patients.”

In addition to providing funding, Autobahn also provides intellectual expertise and access to state-of-the-art facilities through Evotec, a contract research organization “that brings a lot of scientific bench resources,” Nguyen said. “That is going to be a key resource in helping to translate the sciences.”

Potential equity agreements for any successful Salk-Autobahn collaborations will be made on a “case-by-case” basis, Nguyen said.

“The Autobahn model is to identify early-stage projects that could be the basis of forming a company around. So as part of that company formation, and founded on Salk science, there’s a plan that this company would then license the technology and there could be some consideration some equity component in that,” she said. “The innovators of the original technology also have the option to participate as founders in that new company.”

In addition to potential proceeds from and employment in new companies, Salk  trainees will have opportunities to learn about and gain experience in the processes of drug discovery, development and commercialization.

“The interest for us is to provide an avenue for some of our trainees and up-and-coming researchers who haven’t been exposed to that process to interact with drug developers,” Nguyen added.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Founded: 1960
President: Gerald Joyce, M.D., Ph.D.
Headquarters: La Jolla
Business: Research institute
Faculty: 50
Website: www.salk.edu
Notable: Since its inception, six Salk Institute researchers have been awarded the Nobel Prize.


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