Lilly investing in venture to speed drug discovery

July 10, 2008

By J.K. Wall

Eli Lilly and Co. is contributing to a $39 million pot of money to fund a startup that will develop tools to speed discovery and development of new drugs.

Lilly has joined with rivals Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc, as well as Boston venture capital firm PureTech Ventures LLC, to form Enlight Biosciences LLC in Boston.

The people running Enlight include several academics and former pharmaceutical industry representatives. Leading the team is H. Robert Horvitz, a Nobel Laureate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The new company already has started programs to develop advances in molecular imaging, biologics and drug delivery, according to a statement posted on PureTech's Web site. The goal behind the programs is to develop tools to predict human responses to new medicines, forecast whether experimental drugs will work before launching expensive clinical trials and more accurately document both human and animal responses.

"The biopharmaceutical industry has a great need for innovative enabling technologies that will catalyze fundamental transformation of the drug discovery and development process," Dr. Steven Paul, the president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said in a statement.
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