Lycera, a biopharmaceutical company and University of Michigan spinoff, plans to partner and collaborate with UM faculty and students with a move to UM’s North Campus Research Complex.

Lycera, a Plymouth-based company founded by a UM professor, is developing new oral medicines for treating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

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Lycera needs larger space to grow and expand. The company currently is in the Michigan Life Science Innovation Center and will move into about 14,000 square feet at NCRC this fall.

“Creating public-private partnerships is an important goal for the NCRC,” says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs for the University of Michigan and CEO of the UM Health System. “This deal illustrates how we are creating an environment for companies, faculty and staff that can provide mutually beneficial opportunities for close interaction — spurring water cooler conversations between both academic and industry professionals. We know getting companies like Lycera here at NCRC will help us move toward creating a center of innovation — a place where collaboration spurs new ideas.”

Gary D. Glick, founder and chief scientific officer for Lycera, said the company was attracted to NCRC because of the opportunity for collaboration with UM faculty and entrepreneurs. Glick is the Werner E. Bachmann professor of chemistry in the College of Literature, Science & Arts and professor of biological chemistry at the Medical School.

“We are taking a novel, innovative approach to develop drugs that will have a significant impact in treating autoimmune diseases,” Glick said. “We look forward to working in a place where new ideas and insights are encouraged and can be translated into practice.”

In the partnership, Lycera and UM have agreed to numerous collaborations. Plans call for Lycera to share equipment, including a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, providing a benefit to UM faculty who would have to travel to central campus to find an NMR.

Lycera also will fund speakers of mutual interest four times a year in an NCRC scientific seminar series, continuing the company’s rich history of collaboration with outstanding scientists from everywhere. Lycera also will support multiple graduate student interns.

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The company is based on Glick’s research at UM on immune system-modulating drug candidates with promise for treating diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and graft versus host disease. These compounds target a novel therapeutic pathway and, in a range of animal models, demonstrate efficacy without the unwanted side effects associated with current treatments for those diseases.

“Lycera is a perfect fit for our mission at NCRC,” says Steve Forrest, UM’s vice president for research. “This is a company with proven success in drug development discoveries. We know having Lycera here at NCRC will boost both the opportunities for our faculty for collaboration, but also stimulate the economy of southeastern Michigan.”

In 2009, Glick raised $36 million in venture capital financing for the company. Lycera recently announced an exclusive research collaboration with Merck to discover, develop and commercialize small molecules that target T-helper 17 (Th17) cells, which are key mediators of inflammation. Lycera has received $12 million in upfront cash payments, significant committed research funding, and is eligible to receive up to $295 million in research, development and regulatory milestone payments. Lycera is also eligible to receive royalties and milestones based on product sales and has retained a profit share option in the U.S.

Also at the NCRC, UM Tech Transfer’s Venture Center already has six tenants in its Venture Accelerator, which was launched in January 2011. The Venture Center provides world-class lab and office space along with mentoring, funding, talent and other resources for emerging UM start-ups.

Lycera also joins Boropharm, a chemical development and manufacturing business founded by two Michigan State University professors, at NCRC. The company moved into a free-standing building at NCRC in summer 2010.

Since UM purchased the former Pfizer facility less than two years ago, more than 500 workers have moved in.

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“Lycera’s move to NCRC just adds to the excitement and progress already being made at the complex,” Pescovitz said. “We’ve already used this considerable asset to spur cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in cardiovascular research and expect soon to move U-M teams to the site concentrating on translational oncology, health services, biointerfaces and distributed health technologies.”