UCLA has been named as the first university partner of an academic collaboration bridge backed by Evotec, Samsara BioCapital and KCK.

Drug discovery firm Evotec, investment firm Samsara BioCapital and family-run investment fund KCK have joined forces to launch a virtual incubator called Autobahn Labs and unveiled a first university partnership.

Autobahn Labs expects to supply up to $5m per project while offering Evotec’s internal resources, targeting biomedical research from academic partners such as University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The program acts as a commercialisation bridge, investing earlier than traditional venture firms but also lending intellectual and physical expertise, including consultation with Evotec’s 3,000 scientists.

Projects will become spinouts owned by Autobahn Labs as they move from derisking their concepts to commencing preclinical development.

Evotec already collaborates extensively with universities, having established dedicated commercialisation bridges with institutions such as University of Oxford, Harvard University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Fred Hutchison Cancer Centre.

Thomas Novak, chief scientific officer of Autobahn Labs, said: “Autobahn Labs was created to be a catalyst for translational research, working with academic scientists and institutions to design and execute an accelerated path to deliver transformational new therapies.

“We are very excited to partner with UCLA, a university with a premier reputation for innovation in the life sciences, to realize the potential of that innovation for patients.”

Amir Naiberg, associate vice-chancellor, president and chief executive of UCLA’s Technology Development Group (TDG), said: “UCLA TDG’s mission is centred on innovation, research, teaching and entrepreneurship to benefit society.

“TDG is exploring new models for tech transfer, this novel strategic collaboration with Autobahn Labs allows us to partner with industry experts earlier than ever before. We believe this will enable us to accelerate the transformation of our early scientific research into new drugs.”