Startup Ligon Discovery Lands Bayer Schering for First Deal with Major Pharma

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Ligon Discovery has its first large pharmaceutical partner, a big deal for any biotech but especially for a company that spun out of an academic lab just 16 months ago. Cambridge, MA-based Ligon is announcing today it has inked a deal with Germany-based drugmaker Bayer Schering Pharma. The deal calls for Ligon to use drug-screening technology to discover potential treatments on behalf of Bayer Schering.

Both companies are keeping the exact terms of the deal under wraps, and no details about the types of diseases that Bayer Schering is targeting in this partnership were disclosed. Christian Bailey, who took over as Ligon’s CEO in June, said that his company is getting both upfront cash and additional payments based on Bayer Schering reaching certain drug-development goals. Bayer Schering is a pharmaceutical research unit of Bayer HealthCare.

The deal lends some credence to Ligon’s claims about the potential advantages of its drug-discovery system, which uses proprietary technology originally from Harvard University to conquer the problem of drugging tricky disease targets. The firm has one previous partnership with a fellow biotech startup, Plymouth, MI-based Lycera, to apply its screening technology to discover potential drugs for autoimmune diseases, which are the main focus at Lycera. But Bayer Schering is the first major drugmaker to form a collaboration with Ligon, meaning that the young firm’s technology passed muster with people who have extensive experience in drug research, Bailey says.

Ligon’s technology might enable its partners to succeed where previous drug-screening methods have fallen short. For example, advances in biological research such as high-speed gene sequencing have led to new discoveries into the inner workings of diseases such as cancer, particularly disease proteins and pathways of disease progression. To hear Ligon’s Bailey tell it, the lengthy and cumbersome process of developing tests to identify drugs against these new disease targets has held back the discovery of potential treatments.

“The challenge is that a lot of the new targets that have been discovered in disease pathways are … Next Page »

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