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Daiichi Sankyo, UCSF collaborate on neurodegenerative diseases

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daiichi Sankyo and UC San Francisco (UCSF) have established a drug-discovery collaboration focused on developing novel therapeutics and molecular diagnostics for multiple neurodegenerative diseases.

Daiichi Sankyo will provide its compound library to the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (IND), and both parties will perform high-throughput compound screening and optimization together. The project will bring together the drug development capabilities of Daiichi Sankyo with the expertise of neuroscientists at UCSF, in a collaborative effort to create multiple drug-discovery programs in debilitating disease areas such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and fronto-temporal dementias—all conditions for which there currently are no effective therapeutics available.

Daiichi Sankyo will provide research funding and milestone payments and royalties for successful clinical progression and commercialization of new products. Daiichi Sankyo will receive the option to enter into an exclusive license agreement to develop and commercialize promising compounds.

“These diseases require a big-picture approach, and that’s what Daiichi Sankyo is taking,” said Stanley Prusiner, M.D., who received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of prions, a new biological principle of infection. Prions are alternatively folded proteins that undergo replication—some prions perform critical cellular functions but others cause neurodegenerative diseases. Initially, Prusiner studied prions causing “mad cow” disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), but recently he and many others have focused their work on other replicating, misfolded proteins—which Prusiner and others argue are prions—thought to cause more common neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

“Alzheimer’s alone kills as many people every year as cancer does, but it receives only one-tenth of the funding that we dedicate to cancer research. This collaboration won’t fill that funding gap, but it will offer the tremendous value of Daiichi Sankyo’s scientific expertise to make progress on these diseases,” said Prusiner, UCSF professor of neurology and director of the IND.

“Daiichi Sankyo is committed to identifying potential new therapies to help fuel our passion to find medicines for the patients who need them. Using the compound screening technology at UCSF, along with their expertise in prion research, will give us an opportunity to explore the potential,” said Glenn Gormley, M.D., Ph.D., senior executive officer and global head of R&D, Daiichi Sankyo.

Daiichi Sankyo will send scientists from its Venture Science Laboratories (VSL) to work on site at the IND and will jointly establish the drug discovery programs. VSL was established internally, as a biotech-like organization, in Daiichi Sankyo’s R&D division in April 2013 to further strengthen Daiichi Sankyo’s drug discovery capabilities. VSL is engaged in drug discovery and early development for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and other high unmet medical needs in age-associated diseases for growing aging population in the world.

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