Academia, UK Biotech

Novo Nordisk shrugs off Brexit, unveils $144M plan for a diabetes research center at Oxford

Brexit may have raised concerns about the future of academic research in the UK, but it didn’t stop Novo Nordisk from pushing ahead with plans to establish a new center for early-stage diabetes drug research at the University of Oxford. A leader in diabetes research, Novo has committed $144 million to back the research center, with plans to bring together 100 investigators for the work.

The big idea here, similar to other campus-based research ventures, is to bring together its dedicated research teams with Oxford investigators and fund new collaborations. They’re bringing in James Johnson, an expert in the field, from the University of British Columbia to run the show.

The Danish pharma company has a well earned reputation as one of the most aggressive heavyweight players in the industry. But the diabetes field has been under intense pressure in the last two years, as payers leverage their formularies to gain deeper discounts in the crucial US market. Every new wrinkle in diabetes R&D tends to attract top rivals like Sanofi and Eli Lilly, so early-stage research could offer a longterm approach to developing some significant new approaches to Type 2 diabetes.

For the UK, Novo’s decision will add some important luster to the Golden Triangle of research, anchored by top universities in London, Oxford and Cambridge, as the country moves to formally depart the EU.

Novo CSO Mads Thomsen wasn’t thrilled about Brexit, but Oxford’s rep won out over any doubts he may have had.

“Obviously we think the Brexit decision was unfortunate,” he told the BBC. “That being said, Oxford University has been around for 800 years so the academic excellence and our company’s ability to turn that into medicines hasn’t really changed.”

“This collaboration underlines the importance of shared research and cutting-edge science across boundaries,” said Sir John Bell, the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. Employees at Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford and researchers at the University of Oxford will have the opportunity for daily interaction to share knowledge and insights that will potentially produce new medicines for people living with type 2 diabetes and its complications.”


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RAPS Regulatory Convergence 2017