Scots uni extends cancer drug pharma collaboration

A SCOTS university has extended its collaboration with a pharmaceutical company amidst aims to create “innovative” new cancer drugs.

The University of Dundee’s partnership with Eisai Co Ltd has been extended for a further three years, having first been established in 2019.

The collaboration combines Dundee’s expertise in targeted protein degradation (TPD) research with Eisai’s discovery research and clinical development experiences in oncology.

TPD is revolutionising chemical biology and drug discovery in both academia and industry and provides hope of treating diseases previously thought to be “undruggable”.

The University of Dundee/Eisai team.

The University says that the partnership with Eisai enables translation of this transformative basic research into the drug development pipeline.

Over the past three years the collaboration has already made strides into targeting a specific protein known to play a role in cancer with small molecule degraders.

Work is now expanding to further optimise the drug-like properties of our molecules and deepen our understanding of this exciting target in oncology and potentially other fields.

The extension of the collaboration will see more researchers recruited by the University’s Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation (CeTPD).

New visiting scientists from Eisai will also take up positions at Dundee to find out more about the University’s excellence in this field as part of the knowledge exchange component of the programme.

Professor Alessio Ciulli, Director of CeTPD, said, “With CeTPD, we are reimagining how academia and industry join their individual strengths and work together to innovate a pipeline of molecules that offer a new path towards medicines that will transform the lives of many patients suffering from previously untreatable diseases.

“I am delighted that Eisai have decided to expand the size and scope of our collaboration.

“This marks an important milestone and it is a testament to the fantastic progress made by the project team on developing novel protein degraders to treat disease.”

TPD exploits the body’s own cellular waste disposal system to destroy disease-causing proteins, rather than inhibiting their function. 

Degrading rather than inhibiting a target protein offers several advantages such as better drug response at lower doses as well as reduced side effects and disease resistance.

Eisai positions oncology as its key therapeutic area and is aiming to discover revolutionary new medicines with the potential to cure cancers.

The company is looking to create innovative drugs based on cutting-edge cancer research with the ultimate benefit being to patients with cancer, their families, and healthcare providers.

Under this new agreement, Eisai has the option rights to develop and commercialise the compounds resulting from the collaboration.

If Eisai exercises the options, an upfront fee, milestone payments, and royalties on sales will be paid.

Dr Takashi Owa, Chief Scientific Officer, Deep Human Biology Learning (DHBL) and Senior Vice President at Eisai, said, “We are pleased that the new CeTPD will be opening at the University of Dundee soon, enabling us to promote the next phase of the collaborative research between the University and Eisai at this new Centre.

“From our strategic perspective, the target protein degrader is expected to be one of the key modalities to translate our DHBL drug discovery concepts into innovative real medicines.

“We look forward to developing our productive collaboration at the CeTPD labs and facilities to solve unmet medical needs for the people who are anxious about their health.”

Headquartered in Japan, Eisai is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies.

Established in 1941, it operates globally in terms of R&D, manufacturing, distribution and marketing, with a strong focus on prescription medicines.

Eisai employs more than 10,000 employees worldwide and has an annual revenue of 756.2 billion Yen in fiscal year 2021.

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