Sigma-Aldrich will fund research and development of new reagents by six researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), in return for receiving immediate, day-of-publication access to their discoveries, in a partnership announced today.

The amount of funding was not disclosed. Sigma-Aldrich said, however, that its partnership with TSRI was expected to cut months from the interval between invention of new reagents and their widespread use by researchers, which in turn should reduce drug development costs.

Sigma-Aldrich will receive access to new reagents being developed by TSRI professors Phil Baran, Ph.D., Carlos F. Barbas III, Ph.D., Benjamin Cravatt, Ph.D., Phillip Dawson, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate K. Barry Sharpless, Ph.D., and Jin-Quan Yu, Ph.D. The company will also commercialize the new reagents exclusively via a master licensing agreement, and furnish a Sigma-Aldrich product number for simple reference.

Dr. Baran’s laboratory discovered ten novel zinc-based salts that Sigma-Aldrich and TSRI agreed to produce in bulk last year. The 10 included including the Baran difluoromethylation reagent that several large pharmaceutical companies immediately adopted for optimizing lead compounds, and which is now included in Sigma-Aldrich’s catalog.

“We started to work with the Baran lab, and from there realized that, within that whole department, there was a wealth of reagents and chemical synthesis and chemical biology products that really fit into our goal of putting together a portfolio of products across the spectrum of translational research,” Amanda Halford, Sigma-Aldrich vp, academic research, told GEN.

“It gives us access to a range of reagents, chemical synthesis reagents, chemical biology products. That could be from the difluoromethylation reagent, it could be in some areas of click chemistry, or carbon-hydrogen bond activation chemistry,” Halford said. “It will give us access to a wealth a reagents across the different areas.”

Dr. Sharpless coined the phrase “click chemistry” to describe chemical reactions that are modular, wide in scope, give very high yields, and generate only inoffensive byproducts.

While Sigma-Aldrich has in the past marketed specific products under license from a specific group or investigator that developed them, Halford said the TSRI partnership marks a change in the company’s model: “We are now investing and funding research, with the goal of bringing a much larger range of reagents to market quickly.”

“Rather than waiting for the publication and then reaching out to get the licensing agreements around projects that interest us, this is to anticipate and identify the chemistries that we feel are going to drive our translational research offering, as well as identifying the groups in academia who are working in those areas, proactively engaging with them, and bringing those products to market at the time of publication,” Halford said.

The partnership with Sigma-Aldrich is TSRI’s third in its targeted partnership strategy of hooking up with biopharma giants—but it is the bi-coastal research institute’s first with a maker of reagents, and thus its first with a tools-and-tech company rather than a drug developer. TSRI inked five-year collaborations with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit in May, and with Bristol-Myers Squibb in June 2012.

“We are in discussions with BMS about potentially additional areas to partner on,” Scott Forrest, TSRI’s vp of business development, told GEN. “Taken as a whole, Scripps will continue to do primarily drug discovery deals. But we’re obviously very excited about this particular partnership even though it’s not in our traditional deal-making area.” 


This story has been corrected from an earlier version, which misidentified the collaboration partner of Janssen and BMS. GEN regrets the error.

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