Boehringer Ingelheim and University of Dundee collaborate to develop new class of medicines

14th July, 2016

Boehringer Ingelheim and the University of Dundee will join forces in an exciting collaboration aiming to develop a novel class of medicines that target disease-causing proteins for degradation.

The collaboration brings together the expertise of the University’s Dr Alessio Ciulli, one of the pioneers in the field of PROteolysis TArgeting Chimeric molecules (PROTACs), 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 one moiety that binds the target and another that binds an 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 believe our approach has the potential to fundamentally transform how we tackle protein targets to fight disease”, said Dr Ciulli, 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.”

Read more on the University of Dundee website.

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