A joint research project

Novo Nordisk, Oxford University forge arthritis drug development deal

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BAGSVAERD, Denmark—Novo Nordisk is teaming up with England'sOxford University to develop novel treatments for rheumatoid arthritis andother inflammatory diseases.
Novo Nordisk will fund 10 Oxford researchers at the KennedyInstitute of Rheumatology to work within the partnership. A joint steeringcommittee with members from both parties, including Falk Prof. Sir MarcFeldmann, head of the Kennedy Institute, will oversee the partnership andassess research proposals from scientists at both organizations. The steeringcommittee is composed of three senior members from the Kennedy ResearchInstitute and three senior members of the Novo Nordisk BiopharmaceuticalResearch Unit, and will meet regularly to review progress, evaluate data andprioritize activities within the collaboration.
Per Falk, senior vice president of the BiopharmaceuticalResearch Unit at Novo Nordisk, says the company is excited by the prospects ofdeveloping its autoimmune inflammatory disease pipeline in close collaborationwith Oxford University's Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology. He says the focusof the collaboration is primarily on existing projects where Novo Nordisk isbuilding a strong scientific package to support current and future clinicaltrials.
"We are working with novel biological concepts for treatmentof inflammatory conditions, and this collaboration will further theunderstanding of how these pathways work and can bring value to patients," hesays. "Short-term, this will focus on generating biological data that supportsour ongoing clinical trials and assets close to the testing in man. We willexplore novel targets and mechanisms that previously have not been explored ina therapeutic setting. The overall ambition is to combine our company'sclinical development strengths with those of the Kennedy Institute to increasethe odds that we can successfully develop novel treatment regimens and get themmore quickly to the patients who could potentially benefit from them."
Falk says Oxford proved to be the right collaborator becausethe Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology is among foremost institutions inautoimmune inflammatory diseases worldwide.
"They have over many decades spearheaded many areas inimmunology spanning from novel biology to new treatment modalities," he says."Novo Nordisk has had a successful collaboration with Prof. Feldmann's groupfor many years. We are now strengthening this relationship with the KennedyInstitute by establishing a broader platform for exploring new therapeuticapproaches in inflammation."
The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology is known for havingmade breakthroughs in the understanding of the biological pathways that lead torheumatoid arthritis, which has had a major impact on the treatment ofautoimmune inflammatory disease.
Feldmann, together with his colleague Sir Ravinder Maini,discovered the efficacy of antitumor necrosis factor, or anti-TNF treatment, aclass of drugs used as the current standard of care for moderate to severe rheumatoidarthritis and other autoimmune inflammatory diseases.
According to Feldmann, the institute focuses ontranslational research techniques, including the novel use of diseased humantissue to validate new drug targets as tractable avenues for the treatment ofautoimmune inflammatory diseases, and also the identification of specificbiomarkers of disease that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of newinterventions in a range of patient populations.
"As a translational research center, we are keen to doclinical research on truly innovative ideas that have the potential to improvehow patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease are treated today," saysFeldmann. "Despite advances, there is still a considerable unmet need in thisarea with many of the patients responding only partially to existingtreatments. The need for new therapeutic options is imperative."
Feldmann adds that researchers at the institute will workclosely with Novo Nordisk "to apply the most advanced translational research approachesavailable for discovering new mechanisms and validating drug targets andcandidates in autoimmune inflammatory disease in a variety of human diseasetissue types and at different stages of disease to ensure comprehensivecharacterization of each compound's clinical potential."
Together, the partners hope to differentiate fromestablished therapies and provide safe and efficacious treatment to patientsthat are not responding adequately to current therapies. In order to achievethis, Falk says researchers need to have in-depth knowledge of the way thesedrug candidates work at the molecular level and to ensure that they can confirmthat these mechanisms are also at play in human disease.
"This will allow us to design trials that describe how andin what patients a specific therapy provide benefit," he points out. "Thiscould, for instance, mean the ability to define patient populations likely torespond to the treatment. Long-term, it is very likely that these efforts willlead to better therapies as well as new scientific insights that may generateadditional therapeutic opportunities. It is a unique opportunity to generateknowledge to help progress development of novel therapies and to forward ourunderstanding of how we can become better in defining patient categories suitedfor a specific therapy."

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