A drug discovery group at the University of Dundee is teaming up with a Japanese pharmaceutical giant to develop potential treatments for diseases including Alzheimer’s.
The university’s Drug Discovery Unit has announced a partnership with Takeda, Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, which it hopes will lead to the clinical development of a tau pathology treatment based on a recent discovery.
Tau pathology is a condition found in the brains of sufferers of more than 20 different forms of neurodegenerative disease, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s.
It is increasingly thought to be an important driver of disease progression, with recent studies demonstrating that tau pathology can spread from diseased to healthy cells in a “seeding” process.
The collaboration, which also involves academic experts from research institutes in Cambridge, will focus on molecules discovery by university researchers which help to combat seeding.
The University of Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit, in conjunction with Will McEwan from the University of Cambridge and Leo James at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, has identified drug-like molecules that prevent the “seeded misfolding” of tau.
The tie-up with Takeda aims to accelerate the progression of these molecules towards clinical development, with the potential to become therapies in diseases like Alzheimer’s where tau is implicated.
Alzheimer’s is estimated to affect 50 million people worldwide, with the number of sufferers expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, yet there are currently no disease-modifying treatments.
David Gray, head of innovative targets at the Drug Discovery Unit, said: “Our mission is to bridge the gap between innovative life science research and drug development in areas of unmet clinical need, and Alzheimer’s disease is at the top of the list.
“With support from Medical Research Council we are able to work with leading investigators such as Dr Will McEwan in Cambridge and Dr Leo James at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology to deliver programmes that are ready for industry to take forward.
“Teaming up with Takeda means we’ll get further, faster – bringing a potential treatment for this debilitating condition one step closer.”
Takeda recently paved the way to become one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the world after winning shareholder approval for its £46 billion acquisition of Irish-headquartered group Shire.
The firm won support from at least 88 per cent of shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting in Osaka in December, while Shire investors also approved the deal.