Drug giants Pfizer, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly have joined forces with investment group PureTech Ventures to set up Enlight Biosciences, to help speed up their research efforts.

The drugmakers and the venture capital firm have put $39 million into Enlight, which is to be based in Boston and will focus on trying to advance “breakthrough technologies that can fundamentally alter drug discovery and development”. The new entity’s philosophy is to develop technologies in a "pre-competitive" model…applying a variety of scientific approaches, “including both traditional pharmaceutical company expertise and more entrepreneurial efforts.

Enlight has already initiated programmes in molecular imaging, biologics and drug delivery and is planning to launch projects in a whole host of other areas, such as technologies for early prediction of human response. There are lots of areas which could be of great strategic impact to the pharmaceutical industry but they are not being commercialized, the firm stated.

Steven Paul, president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said that the biopharmaceutical industry “has a great need for innovative enabling technologies that will catalyse fundamental transformation of the drug discovery and development process”. A collaborative entrepreneurial initiative such as Enlight “meets that need in an ideal way”, he added.

Mervyn Turner, senior vice president for worldwide licensing and external research at Merck & Co, echoed Dr Paul’s comments, saying that "Enlight's strategy provides a means to apply emerging technologies that may enhance the probability of success in discovering and developing new medicines". He added that “creative models such as this are important to the future success of our industry".