The appeal of zeal
Elan to join Cambridge in new research center aimed at neurodegenerative diseases
DUBLIN, Ireland—The University of Cambridge and Elan Corp.PLC have launched the Cambridge-Elan Centre for Research Innovation and DrugDiscovery, which will be located at the University of Cambridge, England.
"Theinitial commitment between Cambridge and Elan is for five years with thepotential to extend to 10 years based on the success in discovering novelcompounds that lead to new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders," statesElan's vice president of external communications, Niamh Lyons.
Under theagreement, Elan has committed to $10 million over five years with specificannual contributions based on the teams' progress and plans, Lyons adds. Termsof the agreement also include additional financial considerations should newtherapeutic treatments result from the collaboration.
"The moneywill be used to support an interdisciplinary environment (involving scientistsfrom both sides) uniquely positioned to deliver translational research focusedon innovative therapies for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases," Lyons notes.
The centerwill initially be housed in the department of chemistry at the University ofCambridge.
"It ishoped that over time it will have its own physical presence," Lyons says."Initially, there will be three key investigators who will each overseelaboratories that work together at the center. The final number and specificswill depend on research and success over time."
The agreement paves the way for a long-term collaborationbetween Elan and the University of Cambridge. Certainly, Elan would seem to have joined handswith an outstanding partner, with Cambridge having produced more NobelPrize winners than any other U.K. institution, boasting more than 80 laureates.
"This agreement is a natural next step in the existingworking relationship between our scientists in South San Francisco andscientists at the University of Cambridge," says Dr. Dale Schenk, executivevice president and chief scientific officer at Elan. "This collaborative effortcomplements our portfolio of programs in neuroscience and supports the processof discovery which we believe may lead to a class of therapeutics that no onehas thought possible before."
The center will bring together Elan's two decades ofexperience in Alzheimer's research and its depth in biology and model systemswith the University of Cambridge's contributions in the development ofbiophysical approaches to study the molecular basis of protein misfolding andaggregation and their links to disease. The technology to be used in the studyof protein folding/misfolding was not specified, but Lyons observes, "this agreement is a naturalextension of our productive working relationship with Chris Dobson andCambridge University—confirming that we can identify small molecules that havebiophysical and biological impact against intrinsically disordered proteins.This next stage will further power the meaningful advancements that we havemade together."
Speaking about his relationship with Elan and the launch ofthe Cambridge-Elan Centre, Prof. Christopher Dobson, the John Humphrey PlummerProfessor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge andMaster of St. John's College, says, "I believe that we are creating a centerthat will become globally recognized for innovation. Our collective expertise,proven ability to collaborate and open innovation model provide an excitingbasis for the future. The new center will bring together the skills ofscientists working in an academic institution and in a biotechnology company todevelop new and more effective therapies for some of the most devastating andincreasingly common human diseases."
Dr. Ted Yednock, executive vice president and head ofdiscovery and translation for Elan, adds, "Protein folding, misfolding andturnover are central to neurological disease and will be the basis for furtherscientific and therapeutic advancements. Our relationship with Cambridge willenable us to address the interconnecting biology and biophysics of proteinmisfolding in multiple disease areas simultaneously and in a timely way for theultimate benefit of patients."