Five Mass Research Institutions Participate in Lilly Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative

October 12, 2009

Five research institutions in Massachusetts are among the more than 60 sites across the United States currently participating in a new drug discovery initiative recently launched by Eli Lilly and Company to discover and develop potential new medicines to treat  Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.   Named the Lilly Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative, or PD2, the program uses disease-relevant  assays developed by Lilly scientists and a secure Web portal to evaluate the therapeutic potential of compounds designed and synthesized in university and biotechnology laboratories around the globe.

"Each year, researchers throughout the world design and synthesize compounds in university and biotechnology laboratories that are never fully evaluated as potential drug candidates," says Alan D. Palkowitz, Ph.D., vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies at Lilly.Lilly PR
"There's an untapped source of ideas and compounds in the greater scientific community that could ultimately impact patients' lives following further evaluation and development."

The PD2 initiative is designed to expand opportunities for potential innovation by providing global researchers a more convenient point of entry into Lilly's drug discovery and development process. While academia, biotech and pharma have been collaborating for decades, those collaborations typically involve specific researchers, institutions or companies.  PD2 opens the door to global researchers who may not have a relationship with Lilly, or with any pharmaceutical maker.

Through the PD2 portal,  researchers  may confidentially submit a structure of their compound for an initial computational evaluation using a set of proprietary Lilly algorithms focused on drug-like properties and structural novelty.  If the compound structure meets certain specified criteria, Lilly will ask for a physical sample, still confidential, for biological testing across assay modules in Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis (additional disease state assays will likely be added).
Throughout the entire process of cheminformatics analysis and biological testing, the structure of the compound is not revealed to Lilly scientists.

In addition, all testing by Lilly is free, and all intellectual property rights remain with the submitting researcher and/or institution throughout the entire process.

In return for conducting the work and providing the data -- data which constitutes broader assessments of a compound's biological profile than what is generally available today in academic or government laboratories -- Lilly retains first rights to negotiate a collaboration or licensing agreement with the submitters.  Importantly, if no such agreement is reached within a defined time period, the external researcher is granted no-strings-attached ownership of the data report and can choose to use it in publication or grant proposals, or to further refine structural hypotheses, all of which may advance scientific discovery.

Lilly launched  PD2 in mid-June and since that time, more than 80 research institutions in 14 countries have signed on to participate.  Currently participating sites in  Massachusetts are: Harvard University, Boston University, Tufts University, Chemic Laboratories (chemistry CRO) and Syndexa (a biotech).  Other sites in the United States and around the world include Stanford University, Princeton University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,  Indiana University-Purdue University, the University of Syndey (Australia), National University of Singapore and the University of Postdam (Germany).

"We're incredibly pleased with the response thus far," said Palkowitz.  "PD
2 is a "win-win-win" in that external researchers gain new insights into their compounds, Lilly becomes connected to an untapped global source of ideas and compounds, and, patients may ultimately  be helped one day by new medicines discovered and developed as part of this collaborative-based initiative."

For more information on PD2, please log onto


Membership Deliverables

MassBio Membership gives you:

Purchasing power-MassBio negotiates a broad-based collection of services on behalf of member companies and passes the savings on to its members. 

Networking and professional development-MassBio organizes and executes numerous conferences, committee meetings, and networking events throughout the year.

MassBio Signature Events-Attend our Investors Forum, Innovator Roundtables, Pharma Days, our Golf Classic Fundraiser, Policy Leadership Breakfast, and many others.

Public policy & Advocacy-As the state's leading advocate for our life science super cluster, we fight for public policy initiatives and tax incentives in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., that will enable biotechnology companies to do their best work.

Economic development-MassBio provides expert advice and guidance to help companies find suitable locations and resources as they move to and grow in the Bay State. We make Massachusetts a better place for your business.

Visibility/Resources-Members are listed on a searchable directory that includes a profile and link to the company's website. We highlight your company's latest news by posting to our MassBio member news page. In addition, members can post job openings on our website free!

Educational incentives-We promote education, workforce development and lifelong learning through the MassBioEd Foundation. The foundation customizes training programs for companies and educational institutions and promotes science in the classroom through BioTeach. MassBio members receive a discount on courses offered by the foundation.