October 24, 2011

JHU enters into broad drug discovery collaboration with Eisai

The Johns Hopkins University has entered into a drug-discovery research collaboration with Eisai, a pharmaceutical company based in Tokyo, to develop proprietary small-molecule drugs for a range of brain conditions such as schizophrenia, pain, brain tumors and Alzheimer’s disease.

The collaboration will operate as part of the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute’s NeuroTranslational Program, launched in 2009, which pairs seasoned commercial drug-discovery scientists with Johns Hopkins faculty to convert promising basic science discoveries into clinically useful treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Brain Science Institute, or BSi, will provide Eisai with novel therapeutic targets in the central and peripheral nervous system discovered by scientists at Johns Hopkins. Using the assays developed and validated by the BSi NeuroTranslational Program, Eisai will conduct high-throughput screening of its proprietary compound library to identify chemical entities that interact with these targets. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to identify clinical candidates and advance them to investigational new drug-enabling studies. Eisai will have the option to enter into an agreement to develop and commercialize the new chemical entities, and will make upfront milestone and royalty payments on each selected drug discovery target.

“This is an exceptionally exciting, first-of-its-kind, collaboration with ‘big pharma,’” said Jeffrey D. Rothstein, the John W. Griffin, M.D., director of the BSi and of its NeuroTranslational Program. “It’s really a great opportunity to couple the superb tools and chemical libraries available at Eisai with the creative neuroscience opportunities available through BSi neuroscientists and clinicians. We enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to help find new drugs for a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disease.”

Barbara Slusher, chief scientific officer for the BSi NeuroTranslational Program, said, “I see such a broad high-throughput screening collaboration as a true ‘win-win.’ At Johns Hopkins, we have access to many novel and cutting-edge projects but do not have an industry-grade chemical library to identify initial chemical leads for drug discovery. For Eisai,” she continued, “this would provide a source of clinical candidates potentially important for the treatment of brain disorders. This novel agreement offers a collaborative shared-risk approach and is representative of a new wave in academic-pharma partnerships.”

The Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute was established to answer fundamental questions about brain development and function, and to use these insights to understand the mechanisms of brain disease. This institute brings together neurologists and neuroscientists from across the university’s schools and campuses.

The BSi NeuroTranslational Program has a staff of drug discovery scientists, all with substantial experience in the pharmaceutical industry and capabilities in medicinal chemistry, HTS assay development, receptor pharmacology, enzyme kinetics, primary cell culture, preclinical toxicology, and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. The team is engaged in identifying novel drug targets arising from JHU faculty’s research and translating them into new drug therapies for neurological disorders.

Related websites

Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute

BSi NeuroTranslational Program