Business Development
February 21, 2013


U-M Business 
Engagement Center

Collaboration with Lilly
New clinical trial for diabetic kidney disease
Matthias Kretzler With almost 2 million new cases diagnosed each year, over 8% of the population in the United States has diabetes. And roughly 30% of those patients will eventually develop diabetic kidney disease. Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School are partnering with Eli Lilly and Company in using a human genome-wide data set, together with mouse models, to identify a key driver of diabetic kidney disease. 


Sponsored by Lilly, a new clinical study will examine whether a drug being developed to treat arthritis and skin diseases can be repurposed to help prevent progression of diabetic kidney disease. It takes advantage of genome-wide expression data analyzed by Matthias Kretzler, M.D. (pictured above), Frank Brosius, M.D. and their teams, as well as the investigators' expertise in animal models of diabetic complications.


"We prioritized this pathway as the most relevant in diabetic nephropathy," noted Kretzler. "Together with data from model systems published, there was such strong evidence that Lilly repurposed their compound and started a phase II trial in less than 15 months. It's exciting because this kind of collaboration between industry and academia is exactly the way we can accelerate new therapies to help patients."


Kretzler is widely recognized for international multicenter studies of genome-wide expression profiles of major diseases affecting human kidneys including diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases like lupus. Using systems biology tools and technologies established by the National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics, Kretzler and his team mine these rich data sets to define novel diagnostic markers and disease pathways.


"Dr. Kretzler put together a network of research teams to establish a human genome-wide renal gene expression consortium, originally in Europe, and now worldwide.  Without him and his team, none of this work could have happened," noted Brosius, whose U-M lab is one of 12 organizations participating in the NIH-sponsored Animal Models of Diabetic Complications Consortium. "Then my group provided the animal model studies and the in-depth understanding of diabetic complications that allowed us to focus on the pathway. This highly collaborative, team-science approach makes the U-M one of the only places in the world with the combined expertise to move this project forward."

Fast Forward Proposals Under Review
Major milestone for the Strategic Research Initiative
FastForward The U-M Medical School's Strategic Research Initiative was launched in June 2012, and over the last six months 10 scientific concept groups, involving hundreds of faculty, have worked diligently to assemble teams, refine scientific theses, and draft proposals to "fast forward to tomorrow's cures." Six have been selected to move forward by the Medical School Research Board of Directors including: 
  • Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery initiative in Epigenetics 
  • Cure Obesity 
  • Discovery of New Diseases: A Comprehensive Rare Disease Research Program 
  • Personalized Medicine 
  • Host-Microbiome Initiative 
  • Center for Protein Folding Diseases 
Last week a panel of external experts met to review these proposals and make their recommendations for funding to the Research Board of Directors. Notification of final awards is expected to occur in late April, and the Office of Research will celebrate the announcement and launch of the programs with U-M colleagues and the general public at a "Fast Forward Forum" event in May. 

The Office of Research has made great strides on other "fast forward" strategies that have continued in parallel with the scientific proposals. Despite a challenging financial climate, Medical School leadership continues to fully support infrastructure investments that benefit our entire research community, with the latest developments including: 
  • New assets for the Biomedical Research Core Facilities. 
  • New Honest Broker Office to help investigators gain access to clinical data. 
  • Work has begun to establish a federated research data warehouse. 
  • Work started and endorsement from the Research Board of Directors to create a centralized biorepository system. 
  • Improved regulatory processes, including restructuring IRBMED. 
  • Streamlined execution for industry-sponsored trials. 
  • Integration of clinical research with MiChart. 
  • New Mentored Research Academy and its "R01 Boot Camp."  
The benefits of these investments reach far beyond the walls of the Medical School, benefiting the broader university research enterprise, our industry collaborators, and ultimately impacting patients. You can learn more about all of the initiatives, including reading the executive summaries of the six scientific proposals, at the Strategic Research Initiative website.
Novo Nordisk Awards
13 diabetes and obesity proposals submitted
Novo NordiskUnderscoring our deep strengths in metabolomics, diabetes, and obesity, investigators from the U-M Medical School recently submitted 13 different proposals for the Novo Nordisk Diabetes and Obesity Biologics Science Forum Awards, an opportunity for $250,000 to $500,0000 in awards over a two-year period.

These awards are part of Novo Nordisk's Diabetes and Obesity Biologics Science Forum, which will take place in Chicago, April 16-17, 2013. It is a competitive process, with proposals addressing non-clinical research related to new biologic therapeutics and targets amenable to biologic therapeutics or novel effects of known biologics in the field of Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes, including microvascular complications, and obesity.

The majority of the proposals submitted by U-M investigators focus on controlling blood glucose for diabetes via a variety of approaches ranging from increasing insulin production in vivo or through the introduction of ES/iPS modified cells to modifying the ECM surrounding cells to decrease insulin resistance.  Other research proposals focus on diabetic complications of the eye, kidney, and cardiovascular systems and links between diabetes, obesity, and inflammation. These submissions represent a mere sampling of the diverse research approaches at U-M that are being applied to these pressing health needs.

Introducing the Honest Broker Office
New office will streamline clinical data requests
Honest Broker Office Team

As one of many infrastructure investments that are part of the U-M Medical School's Strategic Research Initiative, the Office of Research recently opened the Honest Broker Office (HBO). One of only a handful of such offices at academic research institutions nation wide, the HBO is IRBMED-approved and has been established to help faculty and their potential industry collaborators "fast forward" access to clinical data for research.


Now any U-M Medical School investigator who requires a clinical data set or an aggregate count for cohort feasibility can simply go to the HBO website and submit a request form online. "In such a decentralized environment, fast and secure access to clinical data has always been a challenge for Med School faculty," notes the new office's director, Deb Gipson, M.D. "Our HBO team can now step in to facilitate, freeing researchers to focus more on science and less on process."


To learn more about the Honest Broker Office or if you're a faculty member who would like to submit a data request, CLICK HERE.

About Us
The Business Development team at the University of Michigan Medical School works to drive innovative industry engagement to support research, develop potential novel funding mechanisms, and foster a culture that supports commercialization activities and entrepreneurship. We help UMMS faculty and strategic partners collaborate, with the ultimate goal of accelerating research and technology to improve human health. To connect, email us or call 734-615-5060.
Office of Research
Business Development is a part of the Office of Research, where our mission is to foster an environment of innovation and efficiency that serves the U-M Medical School community and supports biomedical science from insight to impact.