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Striking a nerve
September 2010
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author
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SAN FRANCISCO—The J. David Gladstone Institutes, a nonprofit, biomedical research and educational institution, and Danish drugmaker H. Lundbeck A/S, have signed a collaborative research agreement aimed at identifying treatments for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.

The joint venture, announced July 21, funds research at the Gladstone Center for Translational Research led by Gladstone investigator Katerina Akassoglou, and also establishes the new Lundbeck Center for Neurovascular and Immuno-imaging at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease.

Terms of the three-year deal were not disclosed, but it is believed to be worth more than $1 million, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

The deal with Copenhagen, Denmark-based Lundbeck, one of the world's leading pharmas working with central nervous system (CNS) disorders, is the most recent coup for Gladstone's translational research center, established in 2006 to move its most advanced discoveries into preclinical development with biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry partners.

For example, Merck & Co. works with Gladstone on a research program in Alzheimer's disease, while Gilead Sciences Inc. and JT Pharma collaborate on projects around the AIDS virus. The Taube-Koret Center for Huntington's Disease Research is another component that focuses on developing disease models and drug targets for Huntington's and related neurodegenerative disease.

Lundbeck scientists will collaborate with Akassoglou going forward, according to Gladstone, an affiliate of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Akassoglou's primary affiliation is with the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, where her laboratory is located and her research is conducted. Akassoglou is also associate professor of neurology at the UCSF, associate adjunct professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego and director of Gladstone's Center for Neurovascular and Immunoimaging.

Akassoglou, who two years ago came to Gladstone from UCSF, identified targets for neurological drugs through her pioneering research on blood proteins. At the same time, she developed imaging techniques to study neurovascular diseases in lab mice that could determine how those diseases develop and progress.

Akassoglou has also developed imaging techniques to study neurovascular diseases in vivo, which will enable a better understanding of the origins and progress of these diseases and thus, find more practical strategies for disease detection and treatment.

"Our research on the role of blood proteins in brain functions has identified new targets for therapeutic intervention in multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases," says Akassoglou. "Collaborating with the outstanding scientists at Lundbeck offers great hope for discovering what triggers these diseases. The goal with Lundbeck is to understand better the sequence of events of disease."

Peter Hongaard Andersen, Lundbeck's executive vice president of research, says it is through its basic research into the origins of neurological disease that Gladstone "has built an impressive knowledge into potential strategies and targets for treating devastating neurological diseases," such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Mads Kronborg, Lundbeck's media relations manager, says Akassoglou's brilliant work was a major selling point for entering into the research agreement.

"Lundbeck has for a long time been aware of the groundbreaking work done by Prof. Akassoglou at the Gladstone Institute, " Kronborg tells ddn. "After a period of productive discussions, it was clear that there was mutual basis for forming this exciting collaboration."

The success of the joint research agreement hinges in large part on finding a way to modify a key biological pathway.

"The focus of the collaboration is on a specific biological mechanism, which Prof. Akassoglou has studied for a longer time," Kronborg says. "This mechanism is important in a number of neurovascular diseases such as pain, Alzheimer's disease and others. It is the hope that by finding the right way to modify this biological pathway, new and improved therapies will emerge, thus ultimately improving the lives of the patients."

Gladstone "has a deep insight in the details around the biological mechanisms mentioned earlier and their physiological importance," Kronborg says. "Lundbeck will add expertise regarding developing the science and thereby increasing the general knowledge of this biological system. Very importantly, Lundbeck will also contribute with its drug discovery and development expertise, thus making it possible to turn this biology knowledge into medicines that are useful for the patients."

Gladstone president Dr. R. Sanders Williams states, "Lundbeck is a truly visionary company with a well-focused strategy for building a pipeline to treat neurological disease."


JT Pharma
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University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
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University of California, San Diego
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Code: E091022

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