GTx’s Partnership With Merck Brings National Focus to Memphis’ Bioscience Industry

The announcement this month that Memphis-based GTx has entered into a global strategic collaboration with Merck & Co., Inc. for the development of SARMs is big news for this local company. (GTx, Merck to collaborate on R&D program) Not only is the agreement potentially worth more than half a billion dollars, it also means GTx will be able to continue its research without facing the pressure of raising more money from investors.

According to Dr. Mitch Steiner, an urologist with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and CEO of GTX, the Merck deal will help the company thrive until it is able to bring one of its experimental drugs to market. In the long-term, high-risk business of drug development, this is a significant achievement.

Perhaps more important, at least from a macro-economic standpoint, is the message the partnership sends to the rest of the world about the validity of the bioscience industry in Memphis. By having a global organization such as Merck invest in one of our companies, GTx has shown that Memphis is capable of producing local research commanding global investment and commercialization.

As more new businesses like GTx are formed around local research and technology, additional money and jobs will come to Memphis. Already, GTx is planning to add another 20 to 30 jobs over the next 18 months to further advance its drug research programs.

This collaboration also proves that tremendous research talent and new technologies can already be found in Memphis. It also proves how valuable local entrepreneurs and investment funding are to creating new businesses and taking them to market.

GTx survived for 10 years with only local backing to reach the point where a national company like Merck was willing to step in. Without the high-risk early-phase funding from Pitt Hyde that helped form a company out of Dr. Steiner’s research, the science behind GTx might still be languishing in a lab. That is why initiatives such as the recently announced INNOVA, an accelerator/seed fund that is being established to drive the development of new technology-based companies in the region, are critical to the development of future bioscience companies in Memphis. It also is why we need to attract more angel investors and investment funds.

It’s often a long, expensive road to bring new technologies to market, but as GTx has discovered, it is often well worth the journey. As a community, it is a journey we should make together so that we can all benefit at the end of the road.


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