Multimillion pound collaboration targets neurodegeneration

Research laboratory

Astex Pharmaceuticals and The Medicines Discovery Institute, Cardiff University (MDI) have agreed a multi-year, multimillion pound drug discovery research collaboration, aimed to identify new drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases.   

The collaboration brings together the research expertise of Dr Emyr Lloyd-Evans and Dr Helen Waller-Evans in lysosomal biology, the drug discovery capabilities of the MDI and the fragment-based drug discovery platform at Astex.  

The combined teams will focus on identifying compounds which modulate lysosomal activity as a way to develop potential new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases with high unmet medical need.  

Lysosomes are a subset of organelles that are crucial for cellular function and mutations in the genes encoding lysosomal and associated proteins are linked to a number of neurodegenerative and lysosomal storage diseases for which there are currently no effective treatments. 

Bringing together academia and industry 

Prof Simon Ward, Director, Medicines Discovery Institute, commented: “We are excited to be working with Astex in a way that allows each partner to play to its individual strengths and build a combined team which is greater than the sum of its parts.  

“This is a validation of the scientific and translational capabilities we have been building at Cardiff University over the last few years and we look forward to delivering outputs that may ultimately benefit patients for whom current treatment options are so limited. This is an excellent demonstration of the power of academic and industrial teams working together to try to solve currently intractable medical problems.” 

Under the terms of the agreement, scientists at the MDI and Astex will collaborate to carry out drug discovery research against a chosen lysosomal target with the aim to identify and optimise compounds that modulate its activity.   

Cardiff University will receive committed R&D funding and is eligible to receive development and regulatory payments if drug compounds progress and a royalty payment on the sales of any approved products.  

Dr David Rees, FMedSci, FRSC, Chief Scientific Officer of Astex, added: “Astex has a long tradition of effective collaborations between academia and industry which we believe is critical for the successful translation of basic science. This partnership aims to support and advance ground-breaking research with the potential to transform the lives of patients with neurodegenerative diseases.”

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