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To Fund the Valley

A new financial tool aims to help early-stage research make the jump across the "valley of death" to advanced clinical trials, the New York Times reports.

It writes that Karen Petrou, the co-founder and managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, developed the idea of BioBonds based on her experience as both a financial services consultant and someone with retinal degeneration. According to the Times, Petrou came across the issue of the gap in funding between research studies and clinical trials while trying to raise money to speed the development of retinal degeneration treatments.

Petrou's BioBonds idea, the Times writes, would create low-interest, government-backed loans for translational research that are then packaged and sold as bonds. Researchers, though, must repay the loans, it adds. Attila Seyhan, director of translational oncology operations at Brown University and a former Pfizer researcher, tells the Times that universities would have to get creative. "There will be losses," he notes. "But if 1 percent succeeds, you pay off the losses. This is how drug development works."

The Times adds that new legislation introduced in May would provide $30 billion for such loans over three years, if passed.