US-based non-profit The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has engaged the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in California as its first collaborator for Advance, a new drug-discovery initiative aimed at translating early-stage biomedical research projects into clinical-development candidates.

Scripps Advance will work with pharmaceutical companies such as J&J to select and fund early-stage projects from both within TSRI and from external sources that can be taken forward into development.

Scott Forrest, TSRI's vice president of business development, described the initiative as “a truly novel type of relationship designed to combine the diversity and innovation of academic research enterprises with the expertise, infrastructure and capital of the private sector”.

Padlock launch

Scripps Advance has already been active in the biotechnology space, teaming up with Atlas Venture, an early-stage investment firm, to launch Padlock Therapeutics.

This new company is focused on discovering novel therapeutics that target protein arginine deiminases (PADs), an emerging class of enzymes with roles in autoimmunity and epigenetic control.

Padlock’s technology was developed in the laboratories of TSRI investigators Paul Thompson and Kerri Mowen, with support from the high-throughput screening facility at the Scripps institute’s campus in Jupiter, Florida.

Strong ties

The Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, one of four regional hubs for R&D partnerships in the innovation hotspots of California, Boston, London and China, will benefit from Scripps Advance’s strong ties with academic researchers at TSRI, other academic centres and early-stage companies to help identify potential collaborators, the Institute explained.

As part of this relationship, Scripps Advance will facilitate ‘match-making’ between the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center and emerging life-science companies, companies-in-planning, scientists conducting translational research, and entrepreneurs who are part of the Scripps Advance network.


As Todd Huffman, TSRI's director of drug-discovery partnerships, noted, Scripps Advance will train its sights on therapeutic developments “with the potential to lead to game-changing ways in which we treat disease”.

The “expertise and technical breadth” found at the Scripps institute’s Florida site has “already had a significant impact on putting drug candidates into the clinic”, Huffman added.

“We look forward to broadening our footprint in this area through collaborations with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and other companies.”