Fred Hutch launches LAB591 business partnership

Collaboration aims to speed Hutch discoveries to patients
Gary Gilliland talks to Stephanie Oestreich and Jon Peacock
At a reception celebrating the LAB591 partnership, Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland (right) chats with Dr. Stephanie Oestreich of Evotec and Jon Peacock of Arix Bioscience. Photo by Josh Belzman / Fred Hutch News Service

LAB591 is now open for business.

A collaborative effort by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center with two European partners, it aims to speed up the development of new cancer and infectious disease therapeutics.

The three-way partnership was formally launched this week. It brings together Fred Hutch; Evotec AG, a drug discovery and development company based in Hamburg, Germany; and Arix Bioscience, a London-based venture capital investment company specializing in creating life sciences companies.

Evotec works with academic research centers to plan and conduct research designed to assess quickly whether promising early-stage technologies can be developed into successful therapies. Arix funds that developmental research and determines if programs can be spun out into new companies.

LAB591 differs from another partnership the Hutch has forged with Japanese drug maker Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which is exploring technologies from Fred Hutch labs with an intention to identify programs to license directly into Takeda for further development rather than creating new companies to do so.

“The quality of the research at Fred Hutch in oncology and infectious diseases is something of great interest to us,” said Arix Executive Chairman Jon Peacock, whose offices are in New York City. “We look for the best science to back, and we think Seattle will be a great source of leading-edge research.”

Bridging the gap from laboratory to bedside requires commercial skills that lab scientists seldom have. For that, researchers need partners.

“The whole point of this partnership is to provide tools and business acumen to our researchers; to move our great research out of our academic world to and into the hands of skilled partners who can help us to get product to patients,” said Hilary Hehman, director of Partnerships & Alliances for Fred Hutch’s Business Development & Strategy team.

With more than 2,000 employees worldwide, Evotec specializes in using its scientific infrastructure, including the use of high-speed screening technologies to see if its vast library of potential drug compounds might work on targets isolated by Hutch scientists. The goal is to identify potential therapeutics and develop them into products that can be approved, manufactured at scale, and made available to patients outside of the research setting.

“Our goal is to significantly shorten the time it takes for a program to advance from the lab into commercialization,” said Evotec Executive Vice President Dr. Stephanie Oestreich, who heads the company’s partnership programs in North America.

Evotec has established several cooperative partnerships with academic institutions under its BRIDGE (Biomedical Research, Innovation & Development Generation Efficiency) program, each named with the prefix LAB and a number chosen by the partner. The 591 in the Hutch’s LAB591 partnership was chosen to honor the research center’s namesake, Fred Hutchinson, who had 591 career strikeouts as a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. The research center was founded by Seattle surgeon Dr. William Hutchinson to honor his late brother after he died of cancer in 1964.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

Sabin Russell is a former staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. For two decades he covered medical science, global health and health care economics for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he wrote extensively about infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and a freelance writer for the New York Times and Health Affairs. 

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