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The appeal of zeal
January 2012
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


DUBLIN, Ireland—The University of Cambridge and Elan Corp. PLC have launched the Cambridge-Elan Centre for Research Innovation and Drug Discovery, which will be located at the University of Cambridge, England.  
"The initial commitment between Cambridge and Elan is for five years with the potential to extend to 10 years based on the success in discovering novel compounds that lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders," states Elan's vice president of external communications, Niamh Lyons.  
Under the agreement, Elan has committed to $10 million over five years with specific annual contributions based on the teams' progress and plans, Lyons adds. Terms of the agreement also include additional financial considerations should new therapeutic treatments result from the collaboration.
"The money will be used to support an interdisciplinary environment (involving scientists from both sides) uniquely positioned to deliver translational research focused on innovative therapies for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases," Lyons notes. The center will initially be housed in the department of chemistry at the University of Cambridge.
"It is hoped that over time it will have its own physical presence," Lyons says. "Initially, there will be three key investigators who will each oversee laboratories that work together at the center. The final number and specifics will depend on research and success over time."  
The agreement paves the way for a long-term collaboration between Elan and the University of Cambridge. Certainly, Elan would seem to have joined hands with an outstanding partner, with Cambridge having produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other U.K. institution, boasting more than 80 laureates.
"This agreement is a natural next step in the existing working relationship between our scientists in South San Francisco and scientists at the University of Cambridge," says Dr. Dale Schenk, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Elan. "This collaborative effort complements our portfolio of programs in neuroscience and supports the process of discovery which we believe may lead to a class of therapeutics that no one has thought possible before. "  
The center will bring together Elan's two decades of experience in Alzheimer's research and its depth in biology and model systems with the University of Cambridge's contributions in the development of biophysical approaches to study the molecular basis of protein misfolding and aggregation and their links to disease. The technology to be used in the study of protein folding/misfolding was not specified, but Lyons observes, "this agreement is a natural extension of our productive working relationship with Chris Dobson and Cambridge University—confirming that we can identify small molecules that have biophysical and biological impact against intrinsically disordered proteins. This next stage will further power the meaningful advancements that we have made together."  
Speaking about his relationship with Elan and the launch of the Cambridge-Elan Centre, Prof. Christopher Dobson, the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St. John's College, says, "I believe that we are creating a center that will become globally recognized for innovation. Our collective expertise, proven ability to collaborate and open innovation model provide an exciting basis for the future. The new center will bring together the skills of scientists working in an academic institution and in a biotechnology company to develop new and more effective therapies for some of the most devastating and increasingly common human diseases."  
Dr. Ted Yednock, executive vice president and head of discovery and translation for Elan, adds, "Protein folding, misfolding and turnover are central to neurological disease and will be the basis for further scientific and therapeutic advancements. Our relationship with Cambridge will enable us to address the interconnecting biology and biophysics of protein misfolding in multiple disease areas simultaneously and in a timely way for the ultimate benefit of patients."
Code: E011207



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