Changing the channel

UCB acquires ion channel-targeting programs from Lectus Therapeutics

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BRUSSELS, Belgium—UCB, a global biopharmaceutical companywith a focus on severe diseases such as central nervous system (CNS) diseasesand immunology issues, recently announced the acquisition of LectusTherapeutics Ltd.'s key pharmaceutical assets through a license and acquisitionagreement. Lectus, based in Manchester, United Kingdom, is a drug discovery anddevelopment company that specializes in next-generation ion channel modulators.
"We are pleased to close this transaction with UCB andanticipate that the competitive edge LEPTICS brings, together with theenthusiasm and expertise of UCB's team, will lead to success in thischallenging area of research and development," Dr. Roland Kozlowski, CEO ofLectus, said in a press release. "This deal, executed with one of the leadingglobal biopharmaceutical companies, highlights the potential of Lectus'approach to ion channel drug discovery and the value of its LEPTICStechnology."
The transaction involves the acquisition of all of Lectus'drug discovery and development programs targeting ion channels for thetreatment of a set of CNS indications and is twofold, according to FranceNeville, vice president of global communications at UCB. The first part is the"acquisition of two early-stage research projects from Lectus," programs thatcenter on the use of Lectus' Leveraged Enabling Proteomics Technology for IonChannel Screening (LEPTICS) technology. The second part is a license to use andcommercialize products discovered through the use of LEPTICS technology.Financial details for the agreement were not disclosed.
"The acquisition of Lectus' pharmaceutical assets and thelicense rights to use the LEPTICS technology will allow UCB to strengthen andaccelerate its research efforts to develop novel treatments for patientssuffering from significant unmet medical needs in central nervous systemdisorders," says Neville.
 Lectus could not be reached for additional comments on thetransaction.
Ion channels are constructed from large proteins that residein the membranes of cells, and they function as pores to permit the flux ofions down their electrochemical potential gradient. These are present in themembranes of all cells. Electricity exists everywhere in the body as a resultof the interactions between protons, neutrons and electrons, and the brain inparticular is known for its electrical signals.
In many cases, CNS disorders are a result of theseelectrical signals misfiring or being blocked, as when parts of the brain diefrom lack of oxygen as a result of a stroke.
Targeting ion channels represents an alternative method oftreating CNS disorders other than trying to regulate or correct the brain'schemistry, and UCB notes on its website that existing anti-epileptic drugs"often act by modulating ion channels, neurotransmitter receptors and pathwayenzymes."
"Ion channel dysfunction is key to the pathophysiology of anumber of central nervous system diseases," says Neville with regard to thepotential of this class of treatments. "Ion channels constitute an importanttarget class for research aimed at identifying novel treatments in CNSdisorders."
The CNS diseases that UCB intends to target first areepilepsy, Parkinson's disease and cognitive disorders, according to Neville.The company currently has several small-molecule drugs available within thoseindications, including Vimpat and Keppra for epilepsy, Neupro for Parkinson'sdisease (as well as restless leg syndrome) and Nootropil for regulatingcerebral functions.
"UCB New Medicines is deploying a wide range of innovativeand proprietary science and technologies in its search for breakthroughmedicines. Lectus' drug discovery and development programs support our researchefforts in the CNS field," Ismail Kola, president of UCB New Medicines, said ina press release. "I feel confident it will enable us to further honor ourcommitment to deliver cutting-edge scientific research driven by the patient'sneeds."

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

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