A trio united against obesity

Florida Hospital, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and Takeda announce partnership to target obesity

Jeffrey Bouley
ORLANDO, Fla.—Florida Hospital and Sanford-Burnham MedicalResearch Institute, along with Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., in lateDecember signed a research agreement to form a collaboration aimed atdiscovering and evaluating new therapeutic approaches to obesity.
 
Thepartnership, the organizations say, "aligns complementary strengths inbiomedical research, clinical research and drug development to identify andvalidate obesity-related biomarkers and new peripheral molecular targets ofmutual interest."
 
The problem of obesity is a growing worldwide healthproblem, but it is particularly notable as an epidemic in the United States,with two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, says Dr. Steven R. Smith,scientific director of the Florida Hospital-Sanford-Burnham TranslationalResearch Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI), where the FloridaHospital portion of the collaboration's work will be performed.
 
"This partnership with Takeda, TRI and Sanford-Burnhamrepresents a major milestone in the quest for a better understanding of obesityas a disease and a pathway forward for the development of safe and effectivetherapies," Smith says.
 
This partnership is the first corporate-sponsored researchjointly undertaken by Sanford-Burnham at its Lake Nona, Fla., location in andthrough the TRI. Not only that, but it represents for Takeda "one of thebiggest and most ambitious drug discovery research partnerships it has undertakenwith the not-for-profit sector—maybe the largest, in fact," notes Dr. PaulLaikind, chief business officer of Sanford-Burnham, though he could not sharespecific dollar amounts.
 
The plan is for the multi-disciplinary team of basicscientists and clinical researchers at Sanford-Burnham and the TRI to provideTakeda with a research continuum from laboratory bench to bedside, using suchadvanced technologies as genomic and metabolite profiling. Such tools andresources will be used to identify metabolic signatures, genes and pathwaysthat could serve as biomarkers and novel drug targets that can provide for morepersonalized medicine-style treatments for obesity and its complications.
 
In addition to using laboratory-based assets, researcherswill also conduct in-depth investigation of patient cohorts so that scientistscan compare data from experimental models and humans to identify genetic andmetabolomic matches.
 
"This research partnership is a collaborative model thatcapitalizes on the synergistic expertise of each group and provides allpartners with access to our cardiometabolic phenotyping, metabolomics andgenomics technology cores," said Dr. Daniel P. Kelly, the scientific directorof the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona in the newsrelease about the deal. "It offers much promise for expediting new drugcandidates into Takeda's development pipeline."
 
"There are a lot of changes going on within thepharmaceutical industry right now, and you're seeing more of a focus now on outsourcingand looking externally for discovery," Laikind tells ddn. "That's where you're going to see a lot of productsthat will patch holes in the pipeline, if you will, which is a practicalconcern. But it's also a recognition that while the spend on drug discovery hasincreased in the industry, the output in terms of actual compounds approved hasgone down, so the industry is looking for alternative ways to fuel drugdiscovery, and that's part of this approach with programs like ours."
 
Also, Laikind admits, it is good for the non-profit andacademic sectors, because entities within that realm are seeing less fundingfrom places like the National Institutes of Health, "which are traditionallyour bread and butter," he says, "so using these kind of structures to fuelresearch at our end also makes a lot of sense."
 
This two-year collaborative agreement includes researchfunding from Takeda divided between Florida Hospital-TRI and Sanford-Burnham.Laikind notes that Takeda has some specific obesity targets in mind,Sanford-Burnham and TRI have obesity research in which they are vested and bothwill be addressed in this collaboration, as well as perhaps finding new targetsand leads together that none of the partners has yet pursued.
 
"We view this collaboration as an opportunity to furtherTakeda's goal of identifying targets for new therapeutics to treat obesity andits negative health consequences, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes andheart disease," said Dr. Paul Chapman, general manager and head of thePharmaceutical Research Division of Takeda, in a prepared statement.
 
The TRI's new 54,000 square-foot, advanced translationalresearch facility is currently under construction at Florida Hospital's HealthVillage in Orlando and is expected to open by the end of 2011.

Jeffrey Bouley

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