Trio Innovation Initiative: a clever new model to finance early drug development
The Centre for Human Drug Research aims to bridge the funding gap for early stage clinical drug development with their Trio Innovation Initiative.
Adam Cohen, CEO of CHDR, explains: “We often come across young companies with excellent ideas, backed by unnecessarily complex financing schemes. Our approach will get them a much bigger bang for their buck”.
CHDR (Centre for Human Drug Research) is known for its contributions to early stage drug development. Recently, CHDR announced Trio, a new initiative aimed to bridge the funding gap for early stage clinical drug development. In Trio, a biotech or pharmaceutical company collaborates with investors and CHDR, using a venture loan to achieve micro-milestones.
“What we do is adding value to a candidate drug”, says Adam Cohen, CHDR's CEO and professor of Clinical Pharmacology at Leiden University. “Either we affirm its potential, so the company may attract investors for further development – or we show in an early stage what can be adjusted or improved. If, in the worst case scenario, the candidate drug does not fulfill essential criteria, a company can avoid wasting money.”
CHDR approaches drug development as a checklist of crucial questions, for instance: does the compound reach the site of action? It seems obvious that this question needs to be answered as early on in the process as possible, for no one wants to invest in a drug that doesn't even come close to its target. But in the classic step-by-step approach to drug development, it may take quite a while before this question has been answered.
“We want to do more with our approach to drug development and we like to see interesting new concepts in pharmacology.”
Not surprisingly, question-based drug design is also one of the powerful pillars of the Trio initiative. Cohen: “We start by defining what the most informative question is that can be answered with the smallest investment. We call that a micro-milestone. Let's say you have a potential drug that must be taken orally. If you can start by proving that an oral preparation is absorbed, the potential value has already increased. The company receives a 'venture loan' from Trio, we do the research, and if the results are positive, the company now may attract funds to go on with the development. In our line of work, we often come across young companies with excellent ideas, backed by unnecessarily complex financing schemes for suboptimal clinical trials. Our approach will get them a much bigger bang for their buck”.
Trio gives the company the possibility to answer such a crucial question without diluting equity. For investors, Trio could be interesting because the 'venture loans' are short-term, the return is high and the risk is limited. “And of course, if the results are promising, an investor might choose to buy stock in the company”, says Cohen.
And what is in it for him? “CHDR is a non-profit foundation. We want to do more with our approach to drug development and we like to see interesting new concepts in pharmacology. And of course, we like to help budding biotech companies bridge the gap between the laboratory and the market.”
Find more information about Trio here
Interview by Pieter van Megchelen
Photos by Michiel Plas
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