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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Great Lakes Discovery to Facilitate University of Michigan Researcher to Pursue a Therapeutic Treatment for Systemic Inflammation


Great Lakes Discovery, the collaboration between Deerfield Management and the University of Michigan, will help facilitate Dr. David Markovitz M.D.’s lab to pursue a therapeutic treatment for systemic inflammation through the new exploratory biologics initiative.  David Markovitz is a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases who also has appointments in the programs in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Cancer Biology, and Immunology. This is the first project in the Great Lakes Discovery pipeline as well as the exploratory biologics initiative. 

Unlike diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease, there are very few targeted biological therapies for systemic lupus erythematosus or for juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), two autoimmune diseases causing significant morbidity and mortality skewed toward the young. Dr. Markovitz’ lab has identified a protein that is linked to autoimmune diseases because patients with JIA, lupus, and other autoimmune diseases have antibodies to that protein. He and colleagues demonstrated via genetic and pharmacological means that the protein itself induces unwanted inflammation, and thus, provides a potential target for the therapy of inflammatory diseases.

David Markovitz, M.D.

“My colleagues and I have been working on this protein for many years, fascinated by its unusual biology and its role in autoimmune diseases and cancer. Our ultimate goal is to find novel treatments for diseases that are not well managed with the existing agents available in the clinic” says Dr. Markovitz:” Therefore, we are immensely happy to be working with Deerfield and their outstanding drug discovery specialists to develop antibodies that hold the potential to treat JIA, lupus, and other diseases where this protein might drive the excessive inflammation that leads to so much morbidity and mortality.”
-David Markovitz, M.D.

The goal of the latest project is to build on U-M research and advance this project from early antibody discovery to identification of a clinically viable treatment. The work, in conjunction with Innovation Partnerships and Great Lakes Discovery, will continue to be led by Markovitz.

The Office of the Vice President for Research, Innovation Partnerships and Great Lakes Discovery, continue to assist faculty interested in working with Deerfield by providing advice and guidance and by sponsoring educational programming focused on drug discovery and development.  

Exploratory Biologics Initiative

Deerfield’s exploratory biologics initiative aims to de-risk a target or therapeutic concept with a set of exploratory biologic molecules. Proposals with a well-defined therapeutic hypothesis can be submitted for review by the Deerfield Science Review Team. For accepted programs, the aim is to deliver panels of 15 – 20 antibodies (or other biologics) that bind to the target of interest and can be functional modulators. Projects under this Initiative may have access to the Ablexis’ AlivaMab® Mouse transgenic mouse technology, which enables the identification of fully human antibodies. Successful projects may transition to full collaboration projects in Great Lakes Discovery where milestone-driven work plans receive the necessary funding required to bring a therapeutic through Investigational New Drug (IND) enabling studies.


About Great Lakes Discovery

The University of Michigan and Deerfield Management, a healthcare investment firm, entered into an agreement to partner in the development and commercialization of therapeutic projects that hold promise in solving unmet medical needs. Deerfield has created a company named Great Lakes Discovery, LLC through which it committed up to $130 million for 10 years to invest in biomedical research at U-M with the aim of developing potentially life-saving drugs and disease treatments.

Projects selected by Great Lakes Discovery will be provided funding and operational support by Deerfield for a development plan aimed at achieving Investigational New Drug (IND) readiness. Successful projects that achieve IND-enabled status may be eligible for additional capital from Deerfield. Great Lakes Discovery, in exchange for funding, would receive an option to license intellectual property that is developed at U-M under this agreement.

To learn more, please reach out to Great Lakes Discovery Scientific Collaboration Manager, Seohee You,

About Deerfield Management  

Deerfield is an investment management firm committed to advancing healthcare through investment, information and philanthropy. The Firm works across the healthcare ecosystem to connect people, capital, ideas and technology in bold, collaborative and inclusive ways. For more information, please visit