Espicom View : Although early stage, this is another example of the increasingly common pairing of pharma with academia to accelerate promising research from the laboratory to the clinic, populate company pipelines and minimise internal R&D expenditure. Riluzole, sold by Sanofi as Rilutek and generically available, is the first and only medication approved by the FDA for slowing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and the majority of people with the disease die within three to five years from the onset of the symptoms. With such limited treatment options and an unmet medical need, a successful collaboration could be very lucrative for Evotec.
Evotec has formed a strategic partnership with Harvard University's Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) to identify compounds that prevent or slow down the loss of motor neurons, which is characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; Lou Gehrig's disease).
The collaboration 'CureMN' (CureMotorNeuron) will leverage human motor neuron assays based on ALS patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells that were developed by Dr Lee Rubin, HSCI Principal faculty member and professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard, and Dr Kevin Eggan, Early Career Scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, HSCI Principal faculty member and professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard, as well as Evotec's drug-discovery infrastructure and expertise to identify compounds that will have therapeutic value against this disease.
Rubin and Eggan's laboratories have developed a large array of ALS patient-derived motor neuron models that allow screening of diseased human cells in culture, an approach that is sometimes referred to as a 'clinical trial in a dish'. Evotec's intention is to systematically screen for new mechanisms, targets and compounds that have the potential to be developed into new products that will modify and ideally halt the progression of ALS and potentially other motor neuron diseases.
This agreement marks the third collaboration between Evotec and leading HSCI scientists, and the fourth with Harvard scientists, and expands a partnership model which combines academic research from Harvard with Evotec's drug platform and expertise, and drives the development of innovative drug candidates.
Evotec has also reached an agreement in principal with PatientsLikeMe on approaches to rapidly evaluate any patient testable theories about progression or pathways that might express themselves in ALS patients. No financial details were disclosed.