Ten years ago, Temple University established the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research as a hub for further developing the scientific discoveries of faculty members and scientists.
The goals of the centers included facilitating collaboration opportunities with pharmaceutical industry partners and other academic researchers, and moving discoveries made on campus into the broader research community.
Now a decade later, the center has generated a measurable return on Temple’s investment, The center has spun out one company, and is in the process of launching three more. Its researchers have received 12 patents, filed for more than 30, and obtained more than $7 million in grants and research contracts. Additionally, the center’s scientists have published more than 30 scientific articles in peer reviewed journals and participated in more than 100 presentations and invited lectures.
“We have grown substantially from having only me working in one lab back in 2009 to having a large number of faculty and staff members working in several labs,” said Magid Abou-Gharbia, the director of the Moulder Center and Temple’s associate dean for research.
Specifically, the Moulder Center now boasts six tenure-track faculty members, one screening manager (in charge of its high throughput screening facility supported by a 50,000-compound library), five scientific staff and one postdoctoral fellow occupying 10 laboratories. The center has another four tenure-track professors and one research professor as associate members.
“I think when you compare the Moulder Center with other academic drug discovery centers, and there are a lot of them, you’d find the team here has done an excellent job with our academic and entrepreneurial mission,” said Abou-Gharbia, a former Wyeth scientist. He said the center would never have gotten off the ground without the support of an $8.2 million grant from the university. Those Temple funds were used to:
• Add tenure-track faculty positions for the center in Temple’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences;
• Construct new research laboratories, faculty offices and meeting space;
• Purchase specialized instruments and equipment; and
• Create drug discovery initiative awards ($1 million over four years) to promote collaborative research.
During the past decade on the academic side, Abou-Gharbia said, the center has coordinated collaborative projects with researchers from Temple’s School of Medicine, College of Science and Technology and Temple Health System’s Fox Chase Cancer Center. The center has also forged research partnerships with Johns Hopkins University and the University of Rochester. Abou-Gharbia said they’ve also established a visiting scholars program.
“One of the things that makes this center unique is scientists from overseas come to spend time with us in our labs,” Abou-Gharbia said. “We’ve had one person from Barcelona and two from the Middle East come here.”
On the entrepreneurial front, intellectual property the Moulder Center has generated for Temple University has been licensed and led to the formation of its first spin-out company: Praeventix. The Exton company is developing an inflammatory bowel disease treatment based on a discovery made by the Temple School of Pharmacy professor’s Daniel Canney and Benjamin Blass.
Other intellectual property is the subject of licensing negotiations, including a disease modifying treatment for type 2 diabetes mellitus, a potential therapy for cerebral palsy, and a novel epigenetic approach to treating cancer. Abou-Gharbia said the center is hope, over the next few years, a drug candidate discovered by one its team members will advance into human clinical trials. “That’s the ultimate goal,” he said, “turning translative innovation into effective and safe medicines.”