Navigating the maze of the mind

UCB and Lieber Institute collaborate to discover new medicines for brain disorders

Jeffrey Bouley
BRUSSELS, Belgium—Belgian company UCB, a globalbiopharmaceutical company focused on medicines and solutions for people livingwith severe diseases of the immune system or central nervous system, andAmerican organization the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD)announced in early July that they will combine their mutual commitment toinnovation and collaboration in a strategic collaboration for the discovery ofnew drug candidates for patients suffering from cognitive impairment.
 
 
Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed,but the companies noted in a news release about the deal that they will jointlygenerate novel lead compounds and further optimize them starting from chemicalcompounds provided by both partners. In addition, the specificinterdisciplinary structure of LIBD will bring to the collaboration its uniqueexpertise in translating basic research and drug discovery into effectiveclinical proof of concept. Moreover, the research alliance between LIBD and UCBreflects UCB's "open innovation" approach that, as UCB notes, "aims to generatenew knowledge and capitalize on external scientific advances and expertise thatcomplement the company's unique internal capabilities and skills."
 
 
The complexities of severe diseases are beyond the expertiseand resources of a single organization, UCB notes on its website, and that iswhy it teams up with partners that "play to our strengths and tap into theorganizations with greater or complementary strengths. Many companies claim tobe patient-driven, but for UCB it is a living reality. In fact, we do not thinkof people with severe diseases as 'patients' but as individuals with livesbeyond their disease."
 
 
UCB touts a "networked, cross-functional organization" thatis able to unlock the creative potential of its global team—numbering some9,000 when its staff and strategic partners' staffs are combined—not simplythrough multidisciplinary team approaches, but also an intranet tool that thecompany says links knowledge and skills, including a virtual R&Dcollaboration platform based on the principles of Wikipedia.
 
 
According to Ismail Kola, executive vice president of UCBand president of its New Medicines group, "This new partnership combines UCB'sworld-class central nervous system research teams with the Lieber Institute forBrain Development's unique understanding of basic genetic and molecularmechanisms of developmental brain disorders. Together, the two parties willembark on a mission to discover new medicines that aim to transform the livesof people living with severe diseases."
 
 
"The Lieber Institute for Brain Development was establishedwith historic philanthropic investment to create a new landscape for researchabout developmental brain disorders and to translate our understanding intochanging the lives of affected individuals," adds Daniel Weinberger, directorand CEO of LIBD, which is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Schoolof Medicine. "The partnership with UCB will advance this mission by providingnew tools for scientific discovery and by developing new therapeutic agents." 
 
In other recent central nervous system news, UCB announcedin July that its U.S. generics-focused subsidiary Kremers Urban PharmaceuticalsInc. has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for18-mg and 27-mg extended-release methylphenidate hydrochloride products andtentative approval for the 36mg and 54 mg dosages. UCB notes that the productsare intended to compete with the brand-name drug Concerta for the treatment ofattention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the two larger doses can getofficial FDA approval after Concerta loses patent exclusivity in September.
 
 
The privately endowed nonprofit Lieber Institute had its ownadditional news in July, noting that after being brought into the Johns HopkinsScience + Technology Park three years ago, it is surpassing its job growthgoals and expanding, having leased some 13,000 square feet of new space. Thisexpands its space by half and as such, plans call for hiring 15 to 20 moreresearchers, bringing staff levels to nearly 100.
 
 
 

Jeffrey Bouley

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