Boehringer Ingelheim and the University of Dundee will join forces in an exciting collaboration with the aim to develop a novel class of medicines that target disease causing proteins for degradation. The collaboration brings together the expertise of Dr Alessio Ciulli, one of the pioneers in the field of PROTACs and based in the School of Life Sciences at Dundee, with Boehringer Ingelheim’s expertise in drug discovery and clinical development of new therapeutic agents.
PROTACs are designed to harness the cell’s natural disposal system (the ubiquitin-proteasome) to specifically remove disease causing proteins. They do this by triggering the labelling of these as “expired” proteins, which the proteasome then removes. PROTACs are anticipated to be broadly applicable to therapeutic areas as diverse as oncology, immunology and respiratory diseases. It opens up opportunities to target disease mechanisms that have been difficult to reach with existing modalities.
To trigger the degradation of target proteins, PROTACs are made of a moiety that binds the target and a moiety that binds a ubiquitin ligase enzyme, and as a result they are likely to exceed the size of conventional oral drug molecules. The design of such “medium sized” drug molecules represents a considerable challenge.
“We are looking forward to working with Dr. Alessio Ciulli, one of the world leaders in this exciting new research area,” said Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., senior corporate vice president, Discovery Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Working closely with the researchers at the University of Dundee, one of the top research centers in the UK for life sciences, we aim to establish a unique platform that can generate PROTAC-based drug candidates for multiple areas of unmet medical need."
“We believe our approach has the potential to fundamentally transform how we tackle protein targets to fight disease”, said Alessio Ciulli, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Dundee, and winner of the 2015 EFMC Prize for a young medicinal chemist in academia. “We are very excited to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. This is a prime example of an industry-academia collaboration to establish a disruptive new approach to drug discovery, initially developed in academia, and to enable its translation all the way to benefit patients.”
The collaboration will not only build on recent ground-breaking work of Dr. Ciulli and his team, but will also benefit from top facilities and expertise available within the School of Life Sciences at Dundee, including the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit headed by Prof. Dario Alessi, and the FingerPrint Proteomics Facility, co-directed by Prof. Mike Ferguson and Prof. Angus Lamond and managed by Dr. Douglas Lamont.
Boehringer Ingelheim is focusing on developing innovative new treatment approaches providing outstanding value for patients. To achieve this, the company is increasing its commitment to external innovation, and is working with top partners from academia and industry worldwide. A growing network of academic collaborations reflects the company’s focus on emerging science that could open new avenues leading to the breakthrough medications of the future.