UCL and the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Eisai have announced the agreement to establish a major drug discovery and development collaboration.
The unique alliance will involve researchers from both organisations working together to investigate innovative new ways of treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other related disorders.
The goal of the collaboration will be to identify and validate novel drug targets, develop new therapeutics and evaluate them in proof-of-concept clinical trials.
This will be the first time that joint research is conducted by a partnership involving a public institution in the UK and a pharmaceutical company. UCL and Eisai will form a Therapeutic Innovation Group (TIG) which will comprise experienced scientists from both UCL and Eisai with the principal function of facilitating and coordinating the discovery and assessment of emerging therapeutic targets involved in neurological diseases. The TIG will also be responsible for the co-development of completely new research areas of interest. A Joint Steering Committee (JSC) will be established to govern the TIG and will be co-chaired by UCL’s Professor Alan Thompson and Eisai’s Neuroscience Unit President, Dr Lynn Kramer.
UCL carries out world-class research into the genetic and mechanistic causes of neurodegenerative diseases. It also has a wealth of expertise in clinical translation and this collaboration is expected to involve scientists and clinicians at UCL’s new Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre located in Queen Square, London. An alliance with UCL also forms a major part of Eisai’s Open Innovation initiative to explore external ideas and paths to drug discovery through partnership. Eisai will provide drug discovery and development resource and know-how, assay development capabilities and medicinal chemistry expertise. In addition, Eisai has extensive experience in regulatory and clinical expertise through successful drug launches of neurological medicines. UCL will also receive milestones payments as projects progress, and, in addition, royalties on therapies successfully brought to market.
The on-going partnership with UCL is only one example of the company’s continued commitment to the UK life sciences industry. This year, Eisai announced the transfer of global manufacturing for its new epilepsy medicine, Fycompa® (perampanel) to the UK. The first-in-class treatment was first launched in the UK in 2012 and is currently being sequentially launched throughout Europe. The announcement further consolidates the UK’s position as a major centre of Eisai’s commercial and growth strategy, and its continuing commitment to neuroscience research. Eisai already has one of the largest dementia research units in the UK and around 200 of the company’s 500 UK employees are currently employed in R&D related positions across multiple therapeutic areas at Eisai’s £100 million EMEA headquarters in Hatfield, UK.
Dr Lynn Kramer, President, Eisai Neuroscience Product Creation Unit said “Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease represent a significant unmet medical need due to lack of effective treatments that can prevent disease progression. UCL’s is a world-class academic institution with specialised research capabilities and we expect this exciting partnership to be very successful. In this unique collaboration, we hope our complementary expertise will identify potential new drug targets that we can bring to market and make available to patients that need it the most.
Professor Sir John Tooke, Vice Provost for Health at UCL, said; “This is a genuinely new way of collaborating on pharmaceutical research for UCL, with exciting implications for research with the potential to lead to step changes in the treatment of diseases which affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s. It will already build on many years of close working and collaboration with Eisai, which I am confident will lead to the development of much-needed, new effective therapeutic agents.”
Commenting on the partnership, Professor Stephen Caddick, Vice-Provost (Enterprise) at UCL, added:
“UCL is committed to working with partners who have a shared vision to translate research findings into products which will have a tangible, positive impact on society. This strategic alliance between UCL and Eisai combines research excellence, clinical insight and commercial expertise which will undoubtedly improve prospects for development of new treatments for patient benefits.”