From Boston to Brussels

Belgium’s UCB launches research alliance with Harvard University

Kimberely Sirk
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BOSTON, Mass.—Ata late June signing ceremony that included Prince Philippe of Belgium, UCB SAand Harvard University made official their intent to launch anindustry-academic drug discovery research alliance. The strategy underlying thecollaborative alliance, the new partners say, is to advance ongoing Harvardresearch projects along the drug development pathway.
"Harvard'sworld-class academic research is an excellent fit with UCB's world-classantibody research and central nervous system pharmacology," says IsmailKola, president of UCB NewMedicines.
The Research Allianceconcept was seeded by a meeting between UCB Board member Countess Evelyn duMonceau and the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, Kola explains.
"Shortlythereafter, our team met with the Harvard Office of Technology and severalHarvard scientists," he says. "There was a meeting of minds and Harvard and UCBagreed to move forward on this innovative venture."
The firstresearch project funded under the Harvard-UCB alliance is a collaboration withDr. Gokhan S. Hotamisligil, chair of the Department of Genetics and ComplexDiseases at the Harvard School of Public Health, to generate and developantibodies against an identified target with potential applications in a rangeof diseases, including diabetes and metabolic disorders. 
The researchfields designated by the alliance are the central nervous system andimmunology, as well as other therapeutic areas of interest to UCB, adds Kola.Those two areas are key research domains for UCB.
UCB will bringits expertise in antibody generation and medicinal chemistry into the allianceand will provide up to $6 million over two years to fund specific innovativeresearch projects led by Harvard scientists.
"Wecouldn't be more pleased about entering into this innovative collaboration withUCB, which joins together leaders in academia and industry to advancepioneering research from the lab to the clinic," said Isaac T. Kohlberg,Harvard's chief technology development officer and head of its Office ofTechnology Development (OTD), in a prepared statement.
"Infurtherance of our mission to serve the public interest," Kohlberg continued,"Harvard has a deep and abiding commitment to collaborate with industry in waysthat push the boundaries of translational research and seek to developnext-generation therapies that will make a difference in the lives of patients.Our collaboration with UCB is an ideal example of how we advance thesegoals."
Kola echoes thatresolve: "Both Harvard and UCB want to develop innovative drugs that will makea difference to patients' lives—this is the driver of our research alliance,"he says. "Harvard provides access to a greater breadth of innovative sciencethan UCB can generate internally. UCB has drug development expertise andresources that can bridge the gap from academic invention to drug candidate.Together, UCB and Harvard have established an alliance that represents a newcollaborative model in the industry, providing a two-way exchange of ideas andexpertise to engender a seamless transition from drug discovery to development."
Kola says thatwork toward the alliance's goals has begun in earnest. Since the alliance wassigned, there has been an exchange of scientists—UCB scientists have madevisits to Harvard, and a Harvard scientist has given a seminar at UCB, heexplains. The alliance will develop over time, as it is expected thatscientific exchange will take place at multiple levels from both partners.
UCB is a globalbiopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development ofinnovative medicines and solutions to transform the lives of people living withsevere diseases of the immune system or of the central nervous system. Its U.S.headquarters is located in Smyrna, Ga. The company employs more than 8,500people in more than 40 countries.
UCB NewMedicinesis UCB's research and early development division, encompassing activities fromdiscovery research through to clinical proof-of-concept. UCB NewMedicines isfocused on ensuring delivery of derisked and differentiated molecules into fulldevelopment. UCB NewMedicines is structured around two European research hubs:Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium, which focuses on central nervous system diseases, andSlough, U.K., which focuses on immunological disorders. 
The Harvard OTD is responsible for all activities pertaining to theevaluation, patenting and licensing of new inventions and discoveries made atHarvard University and Harvard Medical School. The OTD also serves to furtherthe development of Harvard technologies through the establishment of sponsoredresearch collaborations with industry.

Kimberely Sirk

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