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Evotec signs kidney disease biomarker research deal with Harvard

Expands German pharma company's existing diabetes alliance with the university

Evotec has signed a research collaboration with Harvard University to discover and develop new biomarkers and treatments for kidney disease.

The German pharma company said the deal, which also involves the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, would bring together extensive expertise in kidney biology, physiology and disease.

The partners will also be able to benefit from “a unique set of tools to identify, validate and develop candidate targets and biomarkers” through the strategic alliance, Evotec said.

Dubbed 'CureNephron', the research programme is designed to deliver and exploit novel therapeutic targets as well as biomarkers that allow more accurate diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of chronic and acute kidney disease.

Isaac Kohlberg, Harvard's chief technology development officer and head of its Office of Technology Development, said the collaboration was “a great example of joining forces across traditional academic and industrial boundaries to more rapidly advance ground-breaking science to the stage of translational medicine and ultimately patients".

The alliance will look to identify kidney disease relevant mechanisms with a particular interest in mechanisms that have disease modifying potential.

Dr Andy McMahon, professor at Harvard University, said: "The primary mechanisms leading and driving the development of kidney damage have not been systematically explored.

“We aim to comprehensively screen for these mechanisms looking at how individual kidney cell types respond to acute and chronic insults during various stages of disease progression as well as during the recovery process."

Advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) and severe forms of acute kidney injury have very limited treatment options and are associated with high morbidity and mortality.

Patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD) suffer from complete loss of kidney function and have to be treated by dialysis, a costly and burdensome procedure with limited efficacy and generally poor prognosis.

Dr Cord Dohrmann, Evotec's chief scientific officer, said: "We are extremely proud to work with Dr Andy McMahon and Dr Ben Humphreys, who are highly accomplished scientists and clinicians in this exciting field. Together with Evotec scientists they will be part of a uniquely cross functional team covering kidney biology, physiology, and disease as well as leading drug discovery expertise.

“Our combined efforts will lead to new insights into kidney disease biology and fuel a pipeline of commercially exciting drug candidates in acute and chronic kidney disease.”

Evotec's current pipeline includes EVT770, for which it has a licence and collaboration agreement through its Develogen subsidiary with AstraZeneca's biologics unit MedImmune.

Evotec hopes that the underlying science behind EVT770 can be used to develop novel small molecule treatments for diabetes and treatments for diseases such as CKD and heart disease.

Further details and commercial terms of the company's new deal with Harvard were not disclosed, but it builds on Evotec's existing 'CureBeta' strategic alliance with the university.

This was established in March 2011 to develop new diabetes therapies targeting beta cell regeneration.

17th January 2012

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