UC Santa Cruz joins the University of California Drug Discovery Consortium

Scott Lokey
Scott Lokey, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is the UCSC campus lead for UC DDC and a member of the executive committee.

UC Santa Cruz has joined the University of California Drug Discovery Consortium (UC DDC), a cross-campus initiative aimed at building a drug discovery community that actively promotes research translation through industry partnerships.

UC DDC provides funding and mentorship for UC researchers to advance the creation of drugs that address important unmet medical needs. In addition to seed-funding for innovative research in drug discovery and development, the consortium connects researchers to industry for sponsored research partnerships. The industry partners benefit from access to the largest pool of academic biomedical researchers in the United States.

The consortium currently brings together eight UC campuses: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UCSF, and now UC Santa Cruz. It is governed by experts in drug discovery and development who serve as site lead representatives for their respective UC campuses.

Scott Lokey, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the UCSC Chemical Screening Center, is the UCSC campus lead and a member of the UC DDC executive committee.

“UC Santa Cruz brings to the consortium its unique strengths in the areas of genomics and bioinformatics, natural products research, RNA and structural biology, and drug discovery technology,” said Lokey, who has 20 years of experience in the area of drug design and discovery, including numerous industry partnerships with his UCSC research group. He cofounded Circle Pharma, a Bay Area biotech company dedicated to early stage discovery of anti-cancer therapeutics.

“We’re very excited to join this powerful UC-wide consortium, which will bring enhanced opportunities for inter-campus collaboration and industry partnerships,” he said.

The primary mechanism of funding opportunities for UC researchers is through the DDC's Annual Seed Grant Award. This early-stage funding helps accelerate projects to a position of seeking advanced stage funding or investment. UC researchers also benefit from drug discovery education and training workshops sponsored by the DDC, and members have expedited access to core facilities across the UC system.

To support the translation and development of drug discovery research, the UC DDC prioritizes building partnerships with industry members. Industry sponsors have an opportunity to co-develop early-stage projects with UC researchers and gain early access to licensing.

“The consortium gives industry partners a single entry point to the UC system and makes it easier for them to identify research programs that align with their interests,” Lokey said. “From the UC researcher’s perspective, it’s not just a funding opportunity. Industry partnerships provide great training for graduate students and postdocs who get to see how the pharmaceutical industry works and make connections with people. Also, doing this kind of translational research gives you a sense that the work you’re doing has real-world applications.”