CAMBRIDGE,Mass.–Elixir Pharmaceuticals recently secured an exclusive license to intellectual property from the regents of the University of California (UC) relating to work done by Dr. Eric Verdin and his research group at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology with SirT1, a member of the sirtuin class of enzymes, and the HIV transcriptional transactivation protein.
The sirtuins are related to Sir2, a gene identified in yeast that is conserved across species and may be related to the control of lifespan, metabolism, resistance to stress and other cellular regulatory pathways.
Elixir suspects that modulators of this enzyme class may provide important therapeutic agents for metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, and perhaps HIV and cancer as well.
The late spring deal follows a move in December 2004 in which Elixir obtained an exclusive license from UC to intellectual property from Verdin's laboratory relating to SirT2 and SirT3, two other members of the sirtuin class.
In addition to being part of a growing effort to obtain intellectual property rights in this area, the two recent deals also mark the continuing evolution of Elixir into a variety of potential clinical areas.
"Elixir was founded around longevity research initially," notes Dr. Alan Watson, Elixir's executive vice president and chief business officer. "So, we've been interested in identifying various intellectual properties to see if we can do pharmaceutically what people have done genetically with yeast and other organisms in extending life-span. But our efforts aren't to simply make a pill that would help people live 100 or 200 years-which is potentially possible-but to find treatments for various age-related diseases by exploring the pathways related to the sirtuins."
Watson estimates the company is a couple years from clinical trials with sirtuin-related therapeutic agents.