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Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Forma Therapeutics to Advance Blood Cancer Rxs to Clinic

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Non-profit disease foundation the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and drug-discovery startup Forma Therapeutics this week announced a partnership to accelerate the development of therapeutic research projects in LLS' pipeline.

Under the collaboration, LLS will select ten small molecule candidates deemed to have the best chance of quickly advancing to clinical trials from its portfolio of grant-funded academic research projects.

Forma, based in Cambridge, Mass., will then use its proprietary computational solvent mapping technology, which features computer modeling, screening, and medicinal chemistry, to aid in structure-based drug design and optimize and prioritize molecules for LLS and its partners to take to clinical trials.

The pact is the latest under LLS' Therapy Acceleration Program, an initiative launched by the foundation in 2008 to advance therapies with high prospects of providing near-term benefit to patients with blood cancers.

The TAP program comprises three strategies: the academic concierge division, the biotechnology accelerator division, and the clinical trials division.

The partnership with Forma will fall under the biotechnology accelerator division, in which LLS combines scientific and financial resources with those of biotech companies to accelerate blood cancer therapies.

"Biotechnology companies are the focus of this program because of their reputation for innovation and successful drug development," according to LLS' website. "Historically, pharmaceutical companies have resisted developing blood cancer treatments because they are perceived as having less potential for high reward due to relatively small patient populations. LLS funding will help mitigate this development barrier."

The biotechnology accelerator strategy funds only projects that are close to generating data on clinical efficacy in blood cancer patients, LLS said.

LLS' academic concierge division identifies LLS-funded research grant projects that have near-term clinical promise and provides funding and support to advance them commercially; while through its clinical trials division, LLS partners with one or more leading clinical trial centers to "build the infrastructure for broader access to blood cancer clinical trials and significantly increase enrollment of adult cancer patients," according to its website.

Forma, a drug-discovery company co-founded by scientists from the Broad Institute, debuted in January with news that it had secured $25 million in equity-backed and non-dilutive funding (see BTW, 1/7/2009).

The company, which has no formal relationship with the Broad despite the affiliation of scientific co-founders Stuart Schreiber and Michael Foley with the institute, has been assembling a drug-discovery toolbox by negotiating licenses for life sciences technologies from several undisclosed academic and corporate entities.

Its core discovery platform combines cell-based screening, structure-guided drug discovery, and diversity oriented synthesis technology with data from the Cancer Genome Atlas Project to identify changes that occur in the genomes of cancer cells and new drug targets.

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