Bayer HealthCare to broaden strategic alliance with German Cancer Research Center

BayerBayer HealthCare (Bayer) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) will extend their successful strategic research alliance in search of novel cancer therapeutics by focusing their activities also on the field of immunotherapy. Immunotherapies are a promising approach to treat cancer with the aim to selectively reactivate the body's own immune system so that it attacks tumor cells. For the first time, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center and Bayer will work together in a joint laboratory located at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg to develop novel immunotherapies. The joint laboratory will accommodate up to twelve staff, and first projects are expected to start in the middle of this year. The partners will invest together up to €3 million per year under the expanded alliance.

"We are looking forward to interlinking our collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center more closely to develop new treatment options in the field of immunotherapy for patients suffering from cancer", said Professor Dr. Andreas Busch, Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare and Head of Global Drug Discovery. "Bayer is committed to develop innovative therapies that can help people with serious diseases such as cancer to live longer and improve their quality of life."

"The German Cancer Research Center's excellent expertise in basic research in oncology and Bayer's many years of experience in the development of new therapeutic options complement each other perfectly. Within the next five years, we aim to identify at least two new drug candidates in the field of cancer immunotherapy and to jointly develop them up to the start of clinical trials", says Professor Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler, Chairman of the DKFZ's Management Board.

The partners will build on established structures of their existing collaboration including joint review processes of individual projects and resource allocations. The rights to the research findings are shared equally between the partners.

"The goal of one of our joint projects is to look for immunosuppressive molecules on the surface of tumor cells. In a next step we want to block them with antibodies and thereby activate the specific immune response against the tumor cells", explains Professor Dr. Philipp Beckhove, Head of Translational Immunology at the DKFZ. "The new joint laboratory allows us to closely and continuously collaborate with the colleagues from Bayer and, thus, will support the faster translation of concepts from the lab into clinical trials."

The partners can already look back on more than four successful years of collaborative work. Twenty-two projects have been initiated so far, and some of these have already reached important milestones and moved on to the next phase of drug development namely compound screening for new potential drug candidates. Up to now, the two partners have invested more than €10 million in their ongoing joint research since end of 2008.

About the German Cancer Research Center
The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 2,500 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.

About the National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg
The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is a joint project of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospitals, Thorax Clinic Heidelberg and German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe). The aim of NCT is to link promising approaches from cancer research with patient care from diagnosis over treatment to follow-up care and prevention. At the heart of NCT is the interdisciplinary Tumor Outpatient Clinic where patients benefit from an individual treatment plan provided in a timely manner by interdisciplinary expert boards called Tumor Boards. Participation in clinical trials provides access to innovative therapies. Thus, NCT is a trend-setting platform for the transfer of new research results from the laboratory to clinical practice.

About Bayer HealthCare
The Bayer Group is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. Bayer HealthCare, a subgroup of Bayer AG with annual sales of EUR 18.6 billion (2012), is one of the world’s leading, innovative companies in the healthcare and medical products industry and is based in Leverkusen, Germany. The company combines the global activities of the Animal Health, Consumer Care, Medical Care and Pharmaceuticals divisions. Bayer HealthCare’s aim is to discover, develop, manufacture and market products that will improve human and animal health worldwide. Bayer HealthCare has a global workforce of 55,300 employees (Dec 31, 2012) and is represented in more than 100 countries.