Fate has launched the programme in collaboration with Stemgent, a provider of stem cell reagents and tools, to further its research into induced-pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology and share the findings.
Outsourcing-Pharma spoke with Scott Wolchko, chief financial officer at Fate, during BIO 2009 where he explained details of the collaborative model and why it had been chosen.
The Catalyst programme is recruiting partners that will each pay around $2m to $5m a year as part of a three year commitment, according to Wolchko. Companies in the programme will then gain access to advancements in Fate’s technology and Stemgent’s portfolio.
Wolchko explained that pharma companies have responded well to this business model, which gives group members exclusive license to a technology that would be very costly to develop alone.
The drug discovery platform is viewed as pre-competitive by pharma companies according to Wolchko. Consequently companies used to competing against each other are comfortable with sharing the risks and rewards of the programme.
Wolchko said that Fate had spoken to “probably” all the major pharmaceutical companies about the Catalyst programme and that response has been very good.
These meetings had a “very interactive dialogue”, according to Wolchko, with Fate keen to explain the technology and programme and also gain input from the pharma companies.
Gaining the input of pharma companies is one of the reasons Fate opted for this collaborative model, which allows the technology to be developed with a collective wisdom.
Consequently, ensuring the partners have a consistent vision will be important to the success of the project. Wolchko said that companies had been very open about how they would like to use the technology and this should help get the right mix of partners.
Catalyst members will be on a management committee with Fate and Stemgent, which will allow each company to share their respective expertise and vision.
All money put into the programme will be used to help industrialise and develop the technology, with all the information gained from it being passed on to members. In addition, partners can come to Fate’s laboratories and play with the technology.
Another benefit stressed by Wolchko is Fate and Stemgent’s extensive links with academia, which means partners in Catalyst will extend their reach into the research community by proxy.