Shining a light on metabolic disorders

Boehringer Ingelheim, Circuit Therapeutics team up for optogenetics collaboration

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INGELHEIM, Germany & MENLO PARK, Calif.—Boehringer Ingelheim and Circuit Therapeutics, a biotechnology company specializing in optogenetics, have struck up their second collaboration. The collaboration will run three years as the companies apply Circuit's proprietary optogenetics technology platform to investigate metabolic disorders in the hopes of developing new medicines to treat obesity and associated diseases. Optogenetics technology enables the control of neural activity with light.
Under this agreement, Circuit's optogenetics technology will be leveraged to identify targets in central nervous circuits that play a role in obesity, as well as central and peripheral circuits related to coordinating food intake. This focus will enable a better understanding of the biological mechanisms tied to obesity and aid in prioritizing targets with the potential for therapeutic intervention. No financial details for the deal were disclosed.
“Boehringer Ingelheim is excited about the potential of the optogenetics technology platform developed by Circuit and wants to carry on the success already achieved in the area of neurology into the area of metabolism,” Dr. Michel Pairet, senior corporate vice president of Research and Non-clinical Development at Boehringer Ingelheim, remarked in a press release. “This new technology may enable us to unravel the neurological circuits responsible for metabolic disorders down to individual neurons which could lead to the identification of new targets and subsequently new treatments in line with our corporate vision of improving patients’ lives.”
Boehringer Ingelheim and Circuit announced their first collaboration in December 2013. Per the terms of the research collaboration agreement, which is slated to run three years, the companies will combine with research and development capabilities to provide novel avenues for drug discovery in the search for treatments for psychiatric disorders. No additional details regarding the deal were released. So far, the initial collaboration has resulted in the first targets for symptoms of anhedonia (the inability to feel and experience pleasure) relevant to several psychiatric disorders, which Boehringer Ingelheim will investigate further.
“We are excited to extend our partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim and utilize Circuit’s technological capabilities to advance drug discovery in yet another therapeutic area. The success of our first collaboration is founded in Boehringer Ingelheim’s unique partnering approach and its outstanding internal drug discovery capabilities. Together we aspire to establish a foundation for the development of transformational drugs to impact patients’ lives,” Fred Moll, chairman of Circuit Therapeutics, commented in a statement.
As explained on Circuit Therapeutics' website, “Optogenetics requires two key components: A light-sensitive protein, or opsin, and light. Depending on the wavelength, light can either activate neurons with excitatory opsins, inhibit neurons with inhibitory opsins, or initiate cellular signaling cascades (OptoXR). Adjusting the location, strength and color of the light allows for great control of the proteins. The opsin toolbox thus provides great flexibility and specificity for modulating neuronal activity.”

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