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Emory launches Center for New Medicines to accelerate development of life-saving medications
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Brian Katzowitz
CNM launch

Emory's Center for New Medicines aims to foster a culture where young discovery scientists can flourish and enrich a sustainable pipeline of new therapeutics. Co-directors (left to right): Dennis Liotta and Haian Fu.

— Jack Kearse

Emory University’s School of Medicine is embarking on a groundbreaking new initiative to develop a drug discovery pipeline for translating fundamental biological discoveries into the next generation of life-saving treatments.

Announced during the recent 2024 Emory Drug Discovery and Development (3D) Symposium, the Center for New Medicines (CNM) will serve as an integrated one-stop hub of advanced technology, infrastructure and resources where scientists and physicians can work together to identify unmet medical needs and create solutions to improve health outcomes across a number of key disease areas.   

The idea for the center was formulated by esteemed co-directors Haian Fu, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology in the Emory School of Medicine, and Dennis Liotta, PhD, co-founder and former executive director of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE) and the Emory Institute for Drug Development, along with a leadership team with a shared vision. Together, they saw an opportunity to streamline the process for advancing medical innovation and felt that Emory is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this need.

Emory scientists and clinicians have been at the forefront of discovering treatments for a myriad of diseases of global concern, including HIV, COVID-19, cancer and hepatitis B. Building on this rich history in pioneering breakthroughs, CNM plans to expand the therapeutic scope with infrastructure that enables Emory scientists and clinicians to create a diverse therapeutic pipeline. This holistic paradigm is expected to amplify the impact of basic research and accelerate Emory discoveries to the patient bedside.

According to Fu, who also leads the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics research program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, the establishment of CNM can serve as the foundation for addressing unmet medical needs and offer better treatment options for some of the most prevalent and confounding health conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative conditions.

"The Center for New Medicines is a pivotal moment in our quest to accelerate the global impact of life-saving therapeutics," says Fu. “The diverse expertise and robust infrastructure we have at Emory provides a fertile ground for nurturing new transformative treatments. We’re aiming to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and clinical translation."

Co-director Dennis Liotta, who is also a Winship Cancer Institute researcher, adds,"By leveraging our experience and providing training, resources and mentorship, the center will serve as a nexus for Emory talent, driving forward the frontiers of biomedical research to catalyze the development of new medicines."

CNM represents a significant investment in Emory's mission to foster innovation in medicine. Funded for an initial two-year pilot phase, the center will provide comprehensive program management, cutting-edge technology, and infrastructure support, as well as ready access to resources and expertise for its investigators and staff. CNM leadership, which also includes Suresh Ramalingam, MD, Winship Cancer Institute executive director, and Allan Levey, MD/PhD, director of the Goizueta Institute at Emory Brain Health, and Guido Silvestri, MD, executive associate dean for research strategy at School of Medicine, believe that Emory’s therapeutic pipeline can ensure more of its biological discoveries reach the market, thus maximizing benefit to the public and offering a sustainability mechanism for the university.

With more than 3,000 investigators and more than $1 billion in sponsored research awards, Emory is already among the top contributors of FDA-approved drugs. The creation of CNM will position Emory to become the benchmark for all academic drug discovery enterprises.

"The establishment of the Center for New Medicines highlights Emory's commitment to empowering young discovery scientists in a thriving ecosystem of innovation," says Ravi I. Thadhani, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University. " Our ability to create value for patients will grow with this team-based approach to translational science in which lab scientists, physicians, external funders, and industry partners can work seamlessly together toward a unified goal.”

The first seven funded projects under the umbrella of CNM were unveiled during the Drug Development and Discovery Symposium. Chosen by an independent selection committee, each project focuses on cancer-related drug candidates. 

Fu says, “the major advantage we have in academia is our deep, fundamental understanding of disease biology and targets, which we can leverage to address an array of today’s untreatable human diseases, including cancer.”

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