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20 December, 2019 - 01:05 By Tony Quested

AbbVie and Mission find potential drug targets for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases

Mission Therapeutics, a drug discovery and development company focused on selectively inhibiting deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs), and New York-quoted AbbVie are commercially progressing a key R & D collaboration.

Mission and AbbVie have been working together since November 2018 to identify specific DUBs and discover suitable inhibitor compounds for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. 

AbbVie – a global, research-driven biopharmaceutical company – has  now nominated the panel of DUBs that will be progressed for further characterisation and screening activities. This is the first major milestone of the Companies’ DUB research and preclinical development collaboration in neurodegenerative diseases.

Under the terms of the collaboration AbbVie has the option to gain exclusive rights to develop and commercialise DUB inhibitors against up to four selected targets. Mission is eligible to receive success-based milestone payments and royalty payments for each commercialised product.

Over 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and 10 million more with Parkinson’s. The diseases are associated with the accumulation of misfolded proteins, which are believed to cause impaired function and death of nerve cells in the brain. DUBs help to maintain healthy nerve cells by regulating the degradation of the toxic proteins. 

By modulating specific DUBs within the brain, AbbVie and Mission aim to develop drug candidates that enhance degradation of toxic proteins to treat these neurodegenerative disorders.

Commenting on the development, Dr Anker Lundemose, Mission’s CEO said: “AbbVie brings expertise and capabilities complementary to our own, and it is a testament to all involved that we have reached this important milestone. We have made good progress to-date and our high-quality data has enabled AbbVie to take the decision to select multiple DUBs for further investigation. We look forward to continuing to work together to discover and develop DUB inhibitors towards the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.”

Dr. Eric Karran, Vice President, Discovery Neuroscience Research, AbbVie said: “The numbers of people living with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is growing and there are currently no treatments capable of stopping or reversing either disease’s progression. 

“This collaboration, using Mission’s DUB technology platform, shows promise for identifying potential drug targets and the development of new therapeutic options. We look forward to advancing our drug discovery programs with our Mission colleagues.”

Mission Therapeutics has attracted one of the highest profile syndicates of investors in Europe. To date, the company has received £61 million in venture capital from a blue chip syndicate of institutional and corporate investors. 

The company recently announced that it was leasing a substantial facility on Babraham Research Campus to reunite its growing team under one roof.

BioMed Realty and Babraham Research Campus launched a partnership in 2017 which saw the creation of an extra 100,000 square foot of research space for growing bioscience-based companies seeking to scale up their operations. 

The £42m [email protected] expansion encompasses two adjacent buildings and the new facilities provide a corporate campus feel to further promote innovation and strengthen links between academia and the commercial world. 

Dr Lundemose said: “As Mission has prospered and grown over the past seven years, we were forced to split the Company over two sites. 

“The development of these new buildings by BioMed Realty at the Babraham Research Campus present us with the exciting opportunity to bring all our employees together again on one site, to facilitate open collaboration, improve efficiency and promote innovation in the field of mitochondrial diseases, fibrosis and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Mission co-founder, Professor Steve Jackson has a proven record in the advancement of cancer drug development. AstraZeneca’s Lynparza is an innovative, oral PARP inhibitor that exploits tumour DNA repair pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells. The technology arose from discoveries made by Steve Jackson’s Cancer Research UK-funded team in Cambridge.

The roots of the technology can be dated back almost two decades to Jackson’s highly productive lab at Cambridge University.

AstraZeneca paid £702 million for Cambridge Antibody Technology which had developed adalimumab – the first fully human monoclonal antibody drug approved by the FDA – in 2006.

Through Abbott Laboratories adalimumab morphed into HUMIRA and become the UK’s first blockbuster in that year. The CAT business was integrated into MedImmune which continues to thrive in Cambridge and the US as AZ’s biologics R & D hothouse.

Olaparib was developed by Cambridge-based pharmaceutical startup KuDOS, which Prof. Jackson founded, and AstraZeneca acquired the technology when it bought KuDOS, also in 2006, for a reported £122 million.

Professor Jackson believes Lynparza could prove successful in treating breast and pancreatic cancer.

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