New life sciences research institute lands $100M donation

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In a major show of support, two of Indianapolis’ largest institutions are donating $100 million to a young life sciences research institute that is aiming to build a thriving cluster of local life sciences businesses.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, set up just three years ago to help generate life sciences breakthroughs, announced Wednesday morning it has been awarded grants of $80 million from the Lilly Endowment, one of the nation’s largest private philanthropic foundations, and $20 million from the Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation, an arm of the Indianapolis-based drug maker.

Together, the grants represent a major boost for the institute, as it seeks to build upon Indiana’s huge life-sciences industry and make the state a major technology force.

With the grants, the institute has achieved almost half of its three-year fundraising target of approximately $350 million from philanthropic sources, government grants and industry contributions.

“This is a monumental achievement for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute and for the global life sciences research community,” said CEO David Broecker.

Gov. Mike Pence and a lineup of corporate and civic leaders are scheduled to make a formal announcement Wednesday at the institute’s temporary home at the IU Biotechnology Research & Training Center at 1345 W. 16th St.

The institute is backed by a powerful group of corporations and government groups, which provided an initial $50 million several years ago. The early supporters were the state of Indiana, Eli Lilly and Co., the Lilly Endowment, Dow AgroSciences, Roche Diagnostics, Indiana University Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Lilly, one of the state’s largest employers, said it is a long believer in teaming with outside researchers. It pointed out that about one-third of its drugs were originally discovered or developed by someone else.

“The likelihood that one company can invent everything it needs all by itself is very low,” said Darren J. Carroll, Lilly’s senior vice president of corporate business development. “You have to keep yourself open to great research on the outside.”

The institute wants to hire more than 100 scientists to research projects in such areas as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and nutrition. It hopes the research produces new diagnostic tools, new drugs or agricultural-technology products. Those breakthroughs could be commercialized by partner companies or spun out into new companies.

Initially, the institute plans to hire up to three principal scientists this year, each of whom might bring small research teams.

They see the institute as the anchor tenant of a proposed technology development called “16 Tech,” which is slated for a 60-acre tract of land just north of the Indiana University School of Medicine campus. It is expected to include a mix of research labs, corporate offices, business incubators, working spaces, apartment, retail business and parks.

Last year, the City-Council approved $75 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements to get the development off the ground.

The grant is the Lilly Endowment’s second-largest grant ever and represents a large portion of its annual giving. In 2014, the endowment distributed grant payments of $328.6 million and approved $344.4 million in new grants.

“Indiana must continue to expand and enhance its intellectual capital and strengthen its economy, and we believe IBRI will further both of these imperatives while at the same time fostering research designed to improve health outcomes throughout the world,” said N. Clay Robbins, chairman, president and CEO of the Lilly Endowment.

A little less than half of the Lilly Endowment’s grant, or $35 million, is subject to dollar-for-dollar matching conditions to encourage contributions from life sciences business and their foundations. The Lilly Foundation’s contribution of $20 million qualifies for the match, meaning that the institute needs to find matches for only the remaining $15 million.

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