Easing the pain

BioFocus and University of Bristol enter drug discovery collaboration in diabetes-related chronic neuropathic pain

Sep 06, 2010
Jeffrey Bouley
SAFFRON WALDEN, U.K.—BioFocus and the United Kingdom'sUniversity of Bristol recently announced a new drug discovery collaborationaimed at developing treatments for chronic neuropathic pain associated withdiabetes.
Under the terms of the collaboration, BioFocus will providehit-to-lead and lead optimization services for a Wellcome Trust-funded programat the university, and the total contract value for BioFocus could exceed $4.19million in research fees over a period of two years.
"This latest collaboration with the University of Bristol isa prime example of BioFocus' ability to deliver results and thereby retainpartners. Once again, we see the BioFocus screening libraries deliver promisinghits that are of interest to the academic and pharmaceutical communities," saysOnno van de Stolpe, CEO of Galapagos, BioFocus' parent company. "We are pleasedthat the University of Bristol has expanded and extended this successfulrelationship into other strong areas of BioFocus expertise."
The previous two-year collaboration established between thetwo entities was in early 2007, involving a new drug discovery collaboration inthe field of cancer research. In that effort, BioFocus provided leadoptimization services for a University of Bristol research program focusing ondestroying cancer cells, which netted Galapagos and BioFocus around $3.81million in research fees over the period of the collaboration.
That collaboration, to look at drug-like compounds thatprevent PKB activation and that make tumor cells commit suicide, was fundedwith a Wellcome Trust through its Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative.
This 2010-2012 collaboration likewise is supported by aSeeding Drug Discovery Award from the Wellcome Trust, to a team of researchersled by David Wynick, a professor of molecular medicine at the University ofBristol. The project aims to develop a new analgesic drug based on the proteingalanin, a small protein that has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain in anumber of models of diseases, including diabetes. 
In earlier studies, several compounds from the BioFocus screeningcollection were shown to amplify the therapeutic effect of galanin in vitro. In the collaboration with the University ofBristol, BioFocus will provide medicinal chemistry, biology and ADME/PK forthis research project, with the goal to optimize these molecules for thetreatment of diabetic neuropathic pain.
"Molecules from the BioFocus collection have shown promisein amplifying the therapeutic properties of galanin in models of neuropathicpain," Wynick says. "In this new collaboration with BioFocus, we aim to furtheroptimize these molecules into potential clinical candidates for the treatmentof chronic pain associated with diseases such as diabetes."
Diabetes is the most common cause of neuropathic pain,BioFocus and the University of Bristol note, resulting in patients feeling a"burning" or "electrical" pain. Existing painkillers have been largelyineffective in treating diabetic neuropathic pain, which is believed to becaused by damaged nerves as a result of exposure to toxins or inadequate bloodsupply, and because of this, the Wellcome Trust's business development manager,Rick Davis, says Wellcome is "pleased to support this project, which addressesan area of huge unmet clinical need."
According to the International Diabetes Federation, with theincreasing levels of obesity worldwide, the number of people suffering fromdiabetes will likely increase from a current level of 285 million to 438million by 2030.

Sep 06, 2010
Jeffrey Bouley

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