JHU, Eisai enter drug-discovery research collaboration for brain disorders

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The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) 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 (JHBSi) 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 collaboration agreement, the JHBSi will provide Eisai with novel therapeutic targets in the central and peripheral nervous system discovered by scientists at Johns Hopkins University. Using the assays developed and validated by the JHBSi 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 pay upfront milestone and royalty payments on each selected drug discovery target.

"This is an exceptionally exciting, first-of-its-kind, collaboration with 'Big Pharma,'" says Jeffrey D. Rothstein, M.D., Ph.D., the John W. Griffin, M.D., director for the JHBSi and director of the JHBSi 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 JHBSi neuroscientists and clinicians. We enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to help find new drugs for a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disease."

"I see such a broad high-throughput screening collaboration as a true 'win-win,' adds Barbara Slusher, Ph.D., M.B.A., chief scientific officer for the JHBSi's NeuroTranslational Program. "At 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, 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 JHBSi 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 Johns Hopkins University's schools and campuses.

The JHBSi 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.

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