Infectious disease research reaches across borders

New collaboration announced between Boehringer Ingelheim and Tsinghua University

Jennifer Clifford
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INGELHEIM, Germany & BEIJING—Last month, Boehringer Ingelheim and Tsinghua University in Beijing announced a powerful collaboration focused on research and development of immunological therapies for infectious diseases. Through this collaboration, an initiative of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Research Beyond Borders (RBB) and Cancer Immunology and Immune Modulation Research Departments, Boehringer Ingelheim will be branching into a new area of interest, which has mainly focused on gene therapy, regenerative medicine and the role of the microbiome in human health and disease. Partnering with Tsinghua University will allow Boehringer Ingelheim to take advantage of the resources available in China’s growing biomedical innovation hub. The company aims to combine cutting-edge science with a long-term view to address high, unmet medical needs.
“Our collaboration with Tsinghua University is a further expression of our strong commitment to supporting research and development in China, and acknowledges the leading position China has achieved in many scientific areas,” said David Preston, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Greater China.
Infectious diseases include conditions like lower respiratory tract infections and tuberculosis, and represent one of the leading causes of epidemics and death worldwide. In China particularly, there is a high occurrence of death from chronic hepatitis B and tuberculosis. Pathogen-directed treatments and vaccinations have greatly reduced the impact of infectious diseases, but increasing resistance has challenged the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs, and in the past 30 years there have been no new classes of antibiotics developed. Many treatments do fail to cure these infectious diseases—much like cancer, many pathogens may inhibit or modulate their host’s immune system and thus circumvent immune defense. Researchers hope that immune system-activating therapies, which have brought a major therapeutic breakthrough in cancer, may open similar transformative opportunities for patients being treated for infectious disease.
Prof. Chen Dong, Dean of School of Medicine at the Tsinghua University, commented that, “We look forward to combining Boehringer Ingelheim’s leading competencies in immune-oncology and immunology and the discovery and clinical development of new therapeutic agents with our leading expertise and strength in anti-infective therapy research, and especially in immune modulation, for patients suffering from diseases with high unmet medical needs.”
Founded in 1885, family-owned Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies, its broad focus including human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals.This collaboration marks the first time the company will be focusing on infectious diseases.
Tsinghua University School of Medicine was founded on October 25, 2001. After nearly 16 years of active advancement, it has established a solid medical and graduate student training program and faculty team. The Department of Basic Medicine in particular has made remarkable achievements in basic research such as biophysics and biochemistry, immunology, cancer biology and microbiology and infectious diseases. The department has achieved high international peer recognition, especially in the areas of infectious diseases and immune modulation.
The School of Medicine has established long-term collaborations with other leading global pharmaceutical companies as well, such as Bayer, Bristol-Meyer Squibb and GSK. These collaborations will allow the research findings to be translated into innovative medicine for unmet medical illness.
“The joint scientific hub gives our scientists the opportunity to work hand in hand with the outstanding scientists from Tsinghua University to discover novel treatment approaches in the field of immunology and infectious diseases,” remarked Dr. Clive R. Wood, senior corporate vice president of Discovery Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “This partnership has the potential to open new approaches for currently untreatable infectious diseases.”

Jennifer Clifford

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