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IU plays key role in bringing major diabetes discoveries to patients

The purchase of Carmel-based Marcadia Biotech by Roche for what could amount to more than $500 million is described by company and Indiana University officials as a "win-win-win" situation and an example of the importance of ongoing efforts at IU to speed high-tech and potentially life-saving discoveries by its researchers to the marketplace.

Glucagon Structure

Marcadia, founded in 2005, focuses on treatments for diabetes and obesity, significant health concerns not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Much of the company's success is based on the research of co-founder Richard DiMarchi, Cox Professor of Biochemistry and Gill Chair in Biomolecular Science at IU Bloomington. The novel technologies developed in his lab have received sizable interest and commitments from leading pharmaceutical companies, including Roche, Merck and Eli Lilly and Co.

"The research performed by Dr. DiMarchi and his team carries enormous promise for the development of therapeutic medicines that will be significantly more effective than anything in use today," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "These discoveries will quite likely have a substantial impact on the lives of millions of people around the world -- further evidence of why Indiana University continues to develop new research infrastructure and align professional resources and capital to foster and accelerate innovation from IU's faculty. It is vital to our health and economic future."

The acquisition was announced in December but details were not made public until the release of Roche's annual report earlier this week. Roche will provide $287 million initially, with the potential for an additional $250 million dependent on developmental milestones.

"IU and its Research and Technology Corporation played a key supportive role in enabling the formation and growth of Marcadia," Fritz French, former CEO of Marcadia, said.

In addition to the large sums of research funding from non-public sources that DiMarchi's lab attracts, the university receives licensing income arising from inventions that derive from his laboratory pertaining to Marcadia and from comparable agreements involving other research activities at IU. Including licensing income generated through DiMarchi's lab, IU received a total of $14.2 million in licensing revenue during the last fiscal year -- an all-time institutional record.

IU officials say the acquisition highlights the ground-breaking research occurring in IU labs and also the need for the university to continue efforts to bridge the formidable gap between the lab and the private sector. IU's Office for Engagement aggressively works to fill this gap by employing professional resources within the IURTC, business incubation facilities, the Innovate Indiana Fund (an early-stage seed fund), and through support of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Richard DiMarchi

Photo by Ric Cradick

IU Bloomington chemist Richard DiMarchi

Print-Quality Photo

"Dr. DiMarchi and his colleagues continue to distinguish Indiana University by virtue of their leading-edge research that offers great promise for critical breakthroughs in human health and wellness," said Bill Stephan, IU vice president for engagement.

DiMarchi, former Group Vice President of Biotechnology at Lilly Research Labs, is an award-winning researcher in IU's College of Arts and Sciences. In January he was named by the American Peptide Society as the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Merrifield award for career excellence in peptide sciences. The goal of his current research and commercial endeavors is to develop peptides and proteins with enhanced therapeutic properties through biochemical optimization with non-natural amino acids, an approach he has termed chemical-biotechnology. He is co-inventor on more than 100 patents.

This article was originally published on Feb. 7, 2011.