Belfer Institute, Evotec forge oncology collaboration

The two parties aim to discover new oncology therapies targeting epigenetic mechanism

Jeffrey Bouley
HAMBURG, Germany—At the end of April, Evotec AG and theBelfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institutein Boston announced a research collaboration aimed at discovering andcommercializing novel cancer treatments based on epigenetic drug mechanisms.
 
 
The parties will work together to validate emergingepigenetic targets for oncology indications as well as demonstrate thedrugability of the selected target families. Together, they will "invest inenabling technologies, experimental target validation and the generation ofchemical matter by leveraging existing expertise and platforms."
 
 
In the end, all three organizations—Evotec, Belfer andDana-Farber—will provide substantial scientific contributions to drive theeffort and remain on target for the objective of developing therapies thataddress unmet medical needs for cancer patients.
 
Dr. Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec, has expressed greatpride in having found two collaborators of the caliber of Dana-Farber and theBelfer Institute, adding that the collaboration "perfectly matches ourinnovation strategy as described in Evotec's Action Plan 2016. We areenthusiastic about exploring novel targets that have the potential to producefirst-in-class therapeutics for the treatment of cancer."
 
For the Belfer Institute's part, the organization's head ofresearch, Dr. Jessie English, sees this as a "pioneering partnership" thatprovides an excellent opportunity to put together the drug discoverycapabilities of Evotec with the expertise in oncology disease biology at Belferand Dana-Farber to accelerate the development of new medicines to help cancerpatients through epigenetics.
 
English adds that as a rapidly evolving high potential fieldof pharmaceutical research, epigenetics calls for "close relationships betweenacademia and biotechnology innovators. By combining the complimentarycapabilities of Dana-Farber, the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Scienceand Evotec, this collaboration is uniquely positioned to succeed."
 
 
None of the parties were able or willing to disclose commercialterms or other business details of their cooperative agreement.
 
 
Dana-Farber, which is a teaching affiliate of the HarvardMedical School, isn't the only Harvard-related news from Evotec this spring. Acouple weeks after the Belfer/Dana-Farber collaboration news made the rounds,Evotec announced a research collaboration with Harvard University aimed atdiscovering and developing novel antibacterial agents based on a highlyvalidated target family involved in bacterial cell wall biosynthesis.Under the agreement, researchers at Harvard and Evotec willwork together to identify and optimize small-molecule inhibitors of bacterialcell wall synthesis, based on enabling technologies and chemical startingpoints licensed from Harvard.
 
 
Evotec will bring its comprehensive drug discoveryinfrastructure and expertise in addressing antibacterial targets into play tospecifically target peptidoglycan biosynthesis. According to Evotec, theapproach leverages "promising chemical starting points, biological and structure-guidedtechniques allied with extensive medicinal chemistry expertise." Thecommercialization of the resulting assets would be handled through Evotec.
 
"The lack of new antibacterials has been broadly recognizedas a major unmet medical need as antibiotics pipelines are drying up whileresistance against existing drugs is on the rise," Lanthaler noted in the newsrelease about the agreement. "We are excited to team up with our colleagues atHarvard to systematically target a highly validated but underexploitedantibacterial target family."
 
For her part, Dr. Vivian Berlin, director of businessdevelopment in Harvard's Office of Technology Development, added, "Target PGBbuilds on research at Harvard on bacterial cell wall biosynthesis, which is atthe perfect stage of development to partner with Evotec. Our goal incollaborating with Evotec is to accelerate the research and advance the projecttoward the clinic. This collaboration benefits from our aligned vision,complementary skills and the strong relationship we have built with Evotec inour other ongoing collaborations," which include such 2012 deals as Evotec andHarvard entering into strategic alliance with Janssen Pharmaceuticals andEvotec and Harvard expanding an existing strategic alliance into kidneydisease.

Jeffrey Bouley

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