• Collaboration aims to develop PROteolysis TArgeting Chimeric molecules (PROTACs) – a new therapeutic modality that is able to degrade proteins playing a central role in disease processes
• PROTACs and their new mechanism of action are expected to open new horizons for drug development allowing new drug targets to be accessible
• Research bears potential to develop innovative new treatment options for patients with high medical need
Boehringer Ingelheim and the University of Dundee will join forces in an exciting collaboration with the aim to develop a novel class of medicines that target disease causing proteins for degradation. The collaboration brings together the expertise of Dr Alessio Ciulli, one of the pioneers in the field of PROTACs and based in the School of Life Sciences at Dundee, with Boehringer Ingelheim’s expertise in drug discovery and clinical development of new therapeutic agents.
PROTACs are designed to harness the cell’s natural disposal system (the ubiquitin-proteasome) to specifically remove disease causing proteins. They do this by triggering the labelling of these as “expired” proteins, which the proteasome then removes. PROTACs are anticipated to be broadly applicable to therapeutic areas as diverse as oncology, immunology and respiratory diseases. It opens up opportunities to target disease mechanisms that have been difficult to reach with existing modalities.
To trigger the degradation of target proteins, PROTACs are made of a moiety that binds the target and a moiety that binds a ubiquitin ligase enzyme, and as a result they are likely to exceed the size of conventional oral drug molecules. The design of such “medium sized” drug molecules represents a considerable challenge.
“We are looking forward to working with Dr. Alessio Ciulli, one of the world leaders in this exciting new research area,” said Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., Senior Corporate Vice President, Discovery Research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Working closely with the researchers at the University of Dundee, one of the top research centers in the UK for life sciences, we aim to establish a unique platform that can generate PROTAC-based drug candidates for multiple areas of unmet medical need.”
“We believe our approach has the potential to fundamentally transform how we tackle protein targets to fight disease”, said Alessio Ciulli,
Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Dundee, and winner of the 2015 EFMC Prize for a young medicinal chemist in academia. “We are very excited to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. This is a prime example of an industry-academia collaboration to establish a disruptive new approach to drug discovery, initially developed in academia, and to enable its translation all the way to benefit patients.”
The collaboration will not only build on recent ground-breaking work of Dr. Ciulli and his team, but will also benefit from top facilities and expertise available within the School of Life Sciences at Dundee, including the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit headed by Prof. Dario Alessi, and the FingerPrint Proteomics Facility, co-directed by Prof. Mike Ferguson and Prof. Angus Lamond and managed by Dr. Douglas Lamont.
Boehringer Ingelheim is focusing on developing innovative new treatment approaches providing outstanding value for patients. To achieve this, the company is increasing its commitment to external innovation, and is working with top partners from academia and industry worldwide. A growing network of academic collaborations reflects the company’s focus on emerging science that could open new avenues leading to the breakthrough medications of the future.
About University of Dundee
The University of Dundee is the top ranked University in the UK for biological sciences, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. Dundee is internationally recognised for the quality of its teaching and research and has a core mission to transform lives across society. More than 17,000 students are enrolled at Dundee, helping make the city Scotland’s most student-friendly. The University is the central hub for a multi-million pound biotechnology sector in the east of Scotland, which now accounts for 16% of the local economy. For more information please visit www.dundee.ac.uk
About Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates globally through 145 affiliates and a total of some 47,500 employees. The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is on researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.
Social responsibility is an important element of the corporate culture at Boehringer Ingelheim. This includes worldwide involvement in social projects through, for example, the initiative “Making More Health” while also caring for employees. Respect, equal opportunity and reconciling career and family form the foundation of mutual cooperation. The company also focuses on environmental protection and sustainability in everything it does.
In 2015, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.8 billion euros. R&D expenditure corresponds to 20.3 per cent of net sales.For more information please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim.com
University of Dundee
Grant Hill: Press Officer