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VUMC and Incyte Corp. form new scientific alliance

Oct. 22, 2015, 12:00 PM

Incyte Corp.’s Reid Huber, Ph.D., third from right, and Herve Hoppenot, second from right, with (left to right) Vanderbilt’s Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Savona, M.D., at the recent scientific retreat at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) investigators have joined forces with scientists at Incyte Corp. to explore new therapies for the treatment of various types of cancer, as well as other diseases. The company has agreed to help fund basic and translational science research by VUMC investigators.

Incyte Corp. is a Wilmington, Delaware-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of proprietary therapeutics, primarily for oncology.

Incyte executives and researchers recently came to Nashville for a scientific retreat with investigators at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, welcomed the group and said VUMC has expanded its expertise in areas like chemical and cancer biology and developed a large-scale phase 1 clinical trials program to test new therapies.

Incyte president and CEO Hervé Hoppenot told the investigators “We have never been at the point where you see science moving at the speed of what we are seeing today.”

He noted that some newer cancer therapies are already becoming obsolete because more potent therapies are taking their place.

“We are at the point where the competition to be the first to get to a certain point is certainly higher than it has ever been,” Hoppenot said. “We are very impressed by the scientific capabilities at Vanderbilt and the quality of the team members.”

The new alliance is designed to allow scientists at VUMC and Incyte to share the latest discoveries and work together toward the goal of finding and testing potential new therapies for patients. The company has already developed several potent compounds that appear promising for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.

Michael Savona, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and director of the Hematology Early Therapeutics Program at VICC, is principal investigator on the grant from Incyte.

“This partnership leverages the strengths of scientific discovery and translational biology here at Vanderbilt with a remarkable cancer therapeutics pipeline from Incyte. This collaboration will help us best determine the right therapies for the right patient. It is a fantastic opportunity,” Savona said.

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., B.F. Byrd Professor of Oncology and director of VICC, said the alliance comes at a transformational time for the Cancer Center and pointed out that Vanderbilt sits in the middle of a “cancer belt” stretching across several Southeastern states where cancer incidence and death rates are high. VICC has experienced an average annual growth rate of 16.2 percent in new cancer cases and there is a clear need for better cancer therapies.

“The relationship with Incyte is an opportunity to impact the treatment and the outcomes for these patients and cancer patients worldwide,” Pietenpol said.

The research collaboration is slated to continue for at least three years.




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