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Changing the channel
January 2012
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


BRUSSELS, Belgium—UCB, a global biopharmaceutical company with a focus on severe diseases such as central nervous system (CNS) diseases and immunology issues, recently announced the acquisition of Lectus Therapeutics Ltd.'s key pharmaceutical assets through a license and acquisition agreement. Lectus, based in Manchester, United Kingdom, is a drug discovery and development company that specializes in next-generation ion channel modulators.  
"We are pleased to close this transaction with UCB and anticipate that the competitive edge LEPTICS brings, together with the enthusiasm and expertise of UCB's team, will lead to success in this challenging area of research and development," Dr. Roland Kozlowski, CEO of Lectus, said in a press release. "This deal, executed with one of the leading global biopharmaceutical companies, highlights the potential of Lectus ' approach to ion channel drug discovery and the value of its LEPTICS technology."
The transaction involves the acquisition of all of Lectus' drug discovery and development programs targeting ion channels for the treatment of a set of CNS indications and is twofold, according to France Neville, vice president of global communications at UCB. The first part is the "acquisition of two early-stage research projects from Lectus," programs that center on the use of Lectus' Leveraged Enabling Proteomics Technology for Ion Channel Screening (LEPTICS) technology. The second part is a license to use and commercialize products discovered through the use of LEPTICS technology. Financial details for the agreement were not disclosed.
"The acquisition of Lectus' pharmaceutical assets and the license rights to use the LEPTICS technology will allow UCB to strengthen and accelerate its research efforts to develop novel treatments for patients suffering from significant unmet medical needs in central nervous system disorders," says Neville.  
Lectus could not be reached for additional comments on the transaction.  
Ion channels are constructed from large proteins that reside in the membranes of cells, and they function as pores to permit the flux of ions down their electrochemical potential gradient. These are present in the membranes of all cells. Electricity exists everywhere in the body as a result of the interactions between protons, neutrons and electrons, and the brain in particular is known for its electrical signals.  
In many cases, CNS disorders are a result of these electrical signals misfiring or being blocked, as when parts of the brain die from lack of oxygen as a result of a stroke.
Targeting ion channels represents an alternative method of treating CNS disorders other than trying to regulate or correct the brain's chemistry, and UCB notes on its website that existing anti-epileptic drugs "often act by modulating ion channels, neurotransmitter receptors and pathway enzymes."
"Ion channel dysfunction is key to the pathophysiology of a number of central nervous system diseases," says Neville with regard to the potential of this class of treatments. "Ion channels constitute an important target class for research aimed at identifying novel treatments in CNS disorders."  
The CNS diseases that UCB intends to target first are epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and cognitive disorders, according to Neville. The company currently has several small-molecule drugs available within those indications, including Vimpat and Keppra for epilepsy, Neupro for Parkinson's disease (as well as restless leg syndrome) and Nootropil for regulating cerebral functions.
"UCB New Medicines is deploying a wide range of innovative and proprietary science and technologies in its search for breakthrough medicines. Lectus' drug discovery and development programs support our research efforts in the CNS field," Ismail Kola, president of UCB New Medicines, said in a press release. "I feel confident it will enable us to further honor our commitment to deliver cutting-edge scientific research driven by the patient's needs."

UCB in clinical development pacts with PAREXEL, PRA  
BRUSSELS, Belgium—UCB also recently announced that it has entered into clinical development partnerships with PAREXEL and PRA, two leading contract research organizations.
The agreements, which involve R&D, consulting work, regulatory affairs and commercialization, are effective for all of UCB's new clinical study programs on a global basis. No further details were made available.  
Through the partnership, UCB will receive the benefits of PAREXEL's proven clinical processes through all phases of development, which are supported by its market-leading eClinical technology platform. UCB will also leverage PAREXEL's consulting expertise in regulatory affairs and commercialization.  
"We are pleased to announce these strategic partnerships as UCB aims to expand its global drug development activities, including in Asia," said Iris Loew-Friedrich, executive vice president and chief medical officer of UCB, in a statement. "These partnerships represent long-term, win-win commitments to an outsourcing model focused on maximizing the effectiveness of each participant's resources in clinical operations."
Code: E011217



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