Scots uni signs £4.6m research deal with US pharma giant

The University of Glasgow has struck a £4.6 million deal with US pharma giant Eli Lilly to work together on research aimed at helping develop new drugs to tackle four major diseases.

The University of Glasgow will work with Eli Lilly scientists on potential treatments for four diseases.

Under the four-year collaboration, the university’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation will lead on research into potential treatments for rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, fibrosis and vasculitis.

The conditions are debilitating for patients and costly for health services to treat. Rheumatoid arthritis alone affects up to one per cent of people across the globe and it is estimated that within ten years of diagnosis 40 per cent of sufferers are unable to stay in full-time work. In the UK, it costs the NHS on average £700m a year and indirectly costs the UK economy an estimated £8 billion a year.

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Professor Iain McInnes, vice principal at the university of Glasgow, said with the current backdrop of the pandemic it is particularly important that its research continues to focus on discovering new ways to treat patients with other diseases that affect people’s quality-of-life.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Lilly in this extremely exciting collaboration. Strengthening links with industry is hugely important as we move to translate our research findings into clinical practice which benefits patients,” he said.

Ajay Nirula, vice president of Immunology at Lilly, said: “Our research efforts continue to expand beyond our own laboratories to include unique partnerships with top academic institutions such as the University of Glasgow”.

The university team working on the collaboration will be led by Professor Carl Goodyear, and includes Professor Stefan Siebert, Dr Mariola Kurowska-Stolarska, Dr Neal Millar, Dr Neil Basu and Dr Thomas Otto.

Goodyear said the collaboration represents a unique opportunity to combine Glasgow’s “world-class clinical skills” with Lilly’s therapeutic capabilities and technology platforms.

“We are confident that it will deliver the next generation of ‘first-in-class’ therapeutic agents, which will fundamentally change the lives of people who are afflicted with devastating immunological disorders,” he said.

The university is currently playing a key role in the UK’s response to Covid-19, working on research projects across areas including vaccines, testing, treatment, virus behaviour, health complications and the wider effects of the pandemic on society.

It led on research which recently found evidence of community transmission, driven by multiple introductions of the virus which causes COVID-19 through international travel, as early as February 2020.

The researchers discovered that the virus was introduced hundreds of times during the first four weeks of the outbreak in Scotland, mainly from other European countries. Despite travel restrictions to mainland China coming into place at the end of January, the study shows that cases directly linked to Southeast Asia were rare in Scotland.

Lilly employs more than 600 people at its sites in the UK. Over the past decade, it has invested more than £1.9bn in its UK research operations and is currently involved in 106 UK research collaborations across the country. It is conducting more than 50 clinical trials in areas including diabetes, oncology, immunotherapy, pain and neurodegeneration.

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