BridgeBio, with 21 programs underway, keeps an eye out for more prospects in new academic deals

BridgeBio, with 21 programs underway, keeps an eye out for more prospects in new academic deals

BridgeBio Pharma may be gearing up for its first approvals, but it’s not taking its foot off the gas in early-stage research. The company inked a pair of R&D deals with the University of Colorado and the Salk Institute—its third and fourth academic collaborations of the year.

The deals are aimed at propeling research out of Salk and the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus on genetically driven diseases, making sure that promising treatments don’t end up forgotten in academia and actually get a chance at development. BridgeBio struck similar deals this summer with the University of Florida and Johns Hopkins University.

Partnerships like these are the lifeblood of BridgeBio, which set up shop in 2015 to advance treatments for neglected rare diseases. Its model takes luck—and trends—out of an equation that usually has investor interest dictating which science gets companies built around it.

“When you look at what people normally do—and this works as long as IPO markets are open as they definitely are now—take the probability of success somebody has and multiply it by a few-billion-dollar market. It’s going to look good even though the probability of success is really low,” BridgeBio Chief Business Officer Michael Henderson, M.D., said. The result? Multiple players crowd into areas such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy while neglecting thousands of other rare diseases that could use a treatment.

“That’s great for these indications, and that’s why we have therapies approved or set up for approval in only 300 of the 7,000 monogenic disorders because everyone is crowding into the same things,” Henderson added, referring to diseases caused by a mutation in a single gene.

Instead of looking for new approaches to treat a particular disease or fill a gap in the pipeline, BridgeBio takes a more open-ended approach that involves lots of emails, Zoom calls and, eventually, travel.

“We are constantly scraping different journals and PubMed for these 7,000 monogenic diseases and a number of different inherited cancers,” Henderson said. “We’re looking for new articles, new findings, be it in a journal, conference abstracts or something else. As soon as something catches our eye, we jump on it.”

BridgeBio’s hub-and-spoke model puts each program into its own subsidiary with access to centralized resources, allowing the company to shift staff and funding between different assets as needed. Another upside is a clinical failure wouldn’t spell doom for the company the way it would for a one- or two-asset biotech.

“We make small, risky bets; if you bring enough of them into an aggregated platform, you start to get a statistical model of financial returns where it actually isn’t risky,” Henderson said.

With a phase 3 readout in the offing for its lead program, BridgeBio is inching closer to proving its approach works. It has other mid- and late-stage programs following behind and so has begun enlisting commercialization partners including LianBio in China, Alexion in Japan and Medison in Israel.

In the meantime, it’s still working with the likes of Salk and the University of Colorado to look for its next pipeline prospects.

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