Big Pharma Bands with Academia in $23-Million Deal

May 17, 2012

AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Merck Serono, and Pfizer have pledged support of more than £14 million ($23 million) to a translational drug development project being run by the UK’s Medical Research Council and the University of Dundee. The university’s Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) has been working to develop treatments for several diseases including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson’s Disease.

A statement by the university claims that the collaboration is the world’s largest between the academic community and the pharmaceutical industry. The DSTT was first established in 1998 and has continued to receive support from large pharmaceutical companies. The latest round of funding will secure 50 posts at the university for the next four years.

“Collaborations between academic laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry typically last a few years,” Sir Philip Cohen, cofounder of the DSTT, said in the statement. “To maintain and expand support for the DSTT from 1998 until at least 2016 is unprecedented and remarkable. It shows how valuable the collaboration has been for the pharmaceutical industry.”

One of the main focuses of the DSTT is on research related to kinases and the ubiquitin system. Kinase drug discovery accounts for approximately 30% of the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D budget and more than 50% of the global research into cancer. Gleevac, developed by Novartis, is an example of a successful kinase targeting drug that has made a previously fatal form of leukemia into a manageable disease.

Meanwhile, the ubiquitin system is an emerging area of research showing great promise.

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