The Elan Corporation and the University of Cambridge have announced the launch of a new research center of excellence for R&D in new therapies for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. They signed a ten-year agreement, which they say is the start of "a long-term collaboration". The Cambridge-Elan Centre for Research Innovation and Drug Discovery (Cambridge-Elan Centre) will become a uniquely positioned world-leading translational research center.
They aim to discover new compounds that can alter how proteins linked to degenerative diseases behave, so that new treatments can become available. The center will become a fusion of Cambridge's pioneering biophysical approaches in studying protein misfolding and aggregation and how they are linked to disease, and Elan's 20-year experience in Alzheimer's research.
Researchers at Cambridge have spent over a decade in interdisciplinary research in an attempt to better understand the fundamental molecular origins of neurodegenerative disorders. In a communiqué, Cambridge describes Elan as a world leader in the development of treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.
Researchers from both organizations will be able to explore new approaches to better understand the biochemical and biophysical characteristics of protein folding and misfolding.
Protein folding is the process in which a protein molecule assumes its intricate 3-dimensional shape from a random coil. When scientists understand protein folding, they are closer to deciphering the genetic code. If a protein fails to fold into its proper structure it is usually toxic. Several neurodegenerative diseases are thought to be the result of a buildup of amyloid fibrils, formed by misfolded proteins.
Protein before folding (coil), and after folding (3D-shape)
Dale Schenk, Ph.D., executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Elan, said:
"This agreement is a natural next step in the existing working relationship between our scientists in South San Francisco and scientists at the University of Cambridge. This collaborative effort complements our portfolio of programs in neuroscience and supports the process of discovery which we believe may lead to a class of therapeutics that no one has thought possible before."
Elan's executive vice president and head of discovery and translation, Ted Yednock, PhD., said:
"Protein folding, misfolding and turnover are central to neurological disease and will be the basis for further scientific and therapeutic advancements. Our relationship with Cambridge will enable us to address the interconnecting biology and biophysics of protein misfolding in multiple disease areas simultaneously and in a timely way for the ultimate benefit of patients."
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said:
"This exciting collaboration between Cambridge and Elan highlights how, by building on the strengths of each of the organisations, we may find new ways to treat - and beat - debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, expediting the development of fundamental research into viable treatments for the benefit of the millions they affect."
Professor Christopher Dobson FRS, the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St. John's College said:
"I believe that we are creating a Centre that will become globally recognized for innovation. Our collective expertise, proven ability to collaborate, and open innovation model provide an exciting basis for the future. The new Centre will bring together the skills of scientists working in an academic institution and in a biotechnology company to develop new and more effective therapies for some of the most devastating and increasingly common human diseases."
Written by Christian Nordqvist