Industry and Academia: Drs. John Bixby, Vance Lemmon and Hassan Al-Ali

Industry and academia are two very different entities and as such have very different approaches to accomplishing their goals. In academia, the term used for the college and university environment, the main function is to enhance education and research. In industry, the term used for businesses in a particular field, the main function is to create products and services with a financial return. At first glance one would think that academia and industry are at opposite ends of the spectrum with no common ground, but for spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury there are many instances where the two are utilizing each other’s strengths to try to develop  and translate therapies to the clinic.

Drs. John Bixby, Vance Lemmon,and Hassan Al-Ali routinely collaborate with scientists in a number of industries including pharmaceutical, chemical, and information technology. They have collaborated with GlaxoSmithKline and Roche on a project to discover kinase inhibitors that promote axon regeneration. This work led to the identification of a promising lead compound, which they are currently developing into a drug in collaboration with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute – supported by a grant from the Coulter H. Wallace Foundation. They are also collaborating with the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to identify additional leads with novel chemistries. More recently, they have formed collaborations with machine learning scientists from Amazon and chemists from ChemDiv to harden the drug discovery platform that they developed during the axon regeneration project. Finally, they are testing the application of this technology to cancer drug discovery with collaborators at the Finland Institute of Molecular Medicine and the University of Michigan, with promising results.