Yale and Gilead Sciences extend cancer research collaboration

The Yale School of Medicine has announced a three-year extension of a research collaboration with Gilead Sciences, Inc., which was formed in 2011 to discover novel cancer therapies. Under the terms of the initial agreement, the collaboration may be renewed for up to 10 years. The renewal calls for Gilead to provide $30 million in additional funding for research support, and grants the company first option to license Yale inventions that result from the collaboration.

Since the collaboration’s inception, scientists from both Gilead and Yale have engaged in a multi-disciplinary research program to search for the genetic basis and underlying molecular mechanisms of many forms of cancer. The goal is to identify new molecular targets in order to enable development of novel targeted therapies. This includes new therapies that overcome drug resistance, which can develop in some cancer patients treated with current targeted therapies.

Research projects are chosen by a joint steering committee chaired by Joseph Schlessinger, Ph.D., the William H. Prusoff Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and director of the Cancer Biology Institute at Yale West Campus. The Yale science team also includes Roy Herbst, M.D., Ph.D., the Ensign Professor of Medicine (medical oncology), professor of pharmacology, and chief of medical oncology for the Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven; and Richard Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., Sterling Professor and chair of the Department of Genetics and head of The Yale Center for Genome Analysis at Yale West Campus.

Thousands of genes from a diverse set of cancer types have been sequenced as a direct result of projects undertaken as part of this collaboration. Rigorous analysis of these sequences has revealed several recurring mutations. These changes to the genome provide key insights into the processes driving cancer progression; the findings represent one of the largest breakthroughs from any cancer research initiative and serve as an important catapult for further scientific discovery aimed at finding potential cures.

“Gilead is pleased to be continuing this important collaboration with Yale,” said William Lee, Ph.D., senior vice president of research at Gilead. “Significant progress has been made in this first phase of our research partnership, and we will continue to work closely with the team from Yale in an effort to identify novel cancer therapies with the potential to help patients.”

The renewal agreement will allow Yale and Gilead to continue to grow their relationship on several fronts. In addition to the sequencing initiative, Yale has also launched biochemical and pharmacological studies to identify compounds that may lead to therapeutic candidates for certain cancers. These efforts have yielded some promising results, which will now be further expanded in this next phase of collaboration. Moving forward, greater focus will also be placed on finding a single therapy that could be used in multiple cancers.

“We could not have asked for a better start to our partnership with Gilead,” Schlessinger said. “We have achieved remarkable progress through our unique collaboration, in which both the Yale and Gilead groups have a common goal of finding novel cancer therapies.”

Schlessinger continued, “The pace of scientific exchange and innovation spurred by our work together is unlike anything I have seen before. If our accomplishments over the past three years are any indication, we are confident that our future endeavors will significantly advance our current understanding and treatment of cancer.”

About Yale School of Medicine

For more than 50 years, Yale School of Medicine has been at the forefront of the continuously evolving field of cancer research. The Yale Cancer Center is one of a select network of 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation designated by the National Cancer Institute and the only comprehensive center in southern New England. Its mission encompasses basic and clinical research, cancer prevention and control, patient care, community outreach, and education.

About Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences is a biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, and commercializes innovative therapeutics in areas of unmet medical need. The company’s mission is to advance the care of patients suffering from life-threatening diseases worldwide. Headquartered in Foster City, California, Gilead has operations in North and South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.