Academia, Venture

In key endorsement, Deerfield reserves $65M for drug venture with UNC-Chapel Hill

Last October, Deerfield Management teamed up with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for a novel approach to pursuing translational research. Just over a year later, the marquee healthcare investment firm is looking beyond the heart of the Boston/Cambridge biotech hub for its next deal.

Carol Folt

With $65 million in targeted funding, Deerfield is committing to bankroll and support drug research coming out of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, through a new company.

“In creating a new company, Pinnacle Hill, we are bringing together the best of academia and industry to accelerate innovative drug research,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt in a statement. “By investing in our faculty’s early stage research, this partnership advances our commitment to improving the health and well-being of people around the world.”

James Flynn

Pinnacle Hill will get their marching orders from a joint steering committee with members from both UNC-Chapel Hill and Deerfield. Terry Magnuson, the university’s vice chancellor for research and a professor of genetics; Dhiren Thakker, interim head of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the Eshelman Institute for Innovation; and Blossom Damania, professor of microbiology and immunology and vice dean for research in the UNC School of Medicine, will represent the university.

The partners are keeping their options open for now, emphasizing that the venture will consider projects “across a wide range of therapeutic areas.”

Once a project is identified, Deerfield will provide funding, drug development guidance, project management oversight and help with business strategies — taking the pressure of running the business off the founding scientists’ shoulders so they can concentrate on their research.

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s world-class scientists, research centers and institutes…have enabled a culture of innovation with a focus on the patient and novel discoveries,” said James Flynn, Deerfield managing partner. “This will play a critical role in our collaboration to help solve problems, discover new technologies and hopefully save lives.”

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