US biotech Biogen Idec is to research potential new treatments for the neurodegenerative conditions multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
The international partnership will see the two groups work together to improve understanding of the cell processes in the brain that lead to these conditions, both of which still have an unclear cause.
Set to last three years, the alliance will be based at Edinburgh BioQuarter – a biomedical-focused commercial collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, NHS Lothian and industry representatives.
Edinburgh BioQuarter is already home to several existing collaborations with life sciences companies, including a deal with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to develop medicines for acute pancreatitis; a fibrosis programme with Sweden's Galecto Biotech; and a deal with Belgium's Galapagos to test new drug compounds.
The group's key areas of research include regenerative medicine and inflammation, and Biogen will draw on this expertise to boost its own experience in the area, which includes big-selling multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) and the recently launched treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate).
“This landmark partnership is a brilliant example of academic-industrial collaboration in the field of discovery science,” said Siddharthan Chandran, professor of neurology at the University of Edinburgh's College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.
“Only by better understanding the biological processes behind these devastating diseases can we hope to discover new and effective therapies.”
Biogen's VP of neurology research Ken Rhodes was similarly positive about the potential for biotech companies to work with academia, with this latest agreement building on deals with Duke University, the HudsonAlpha Institute and the Myelin Repair Foundation.
“We have embraced academic collaborations as a part of our strategy to maintain a vibrant and innovative research organisation and better understand the underlying biology of neurodegenerative disease,” said Rhodes.