Vanderbilt University has signed separate licensing and research collaboration agreements with Lundbeck, a global pharmaceutical company based in Denmark, to develop a novel approach for treating schizophrenia.
Under the terms of the licensing agreement, Lundbeck has exclusively licensed rights to compounds developed by the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD) that act on a receptor in the brain that has been implicated in schizophrenia.
The Vanderbilt compounds have been shown in animal models to have antipsychotic-like effects and to improve cognitive performance with low risk of side effects.
They were developed with the support of the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and with the support of The William K. Warren Foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with our colleagues at Lundbeck to advance this promising new approach for treatment of a devastating mental illness," said P. Jeffrey Conn, PhD, founding VCNDD director and the Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
"Lundbeck has a strong commitment to improving the lives of patients suffering from schizophrenia and has made major investments in fundamentally improving the standard of care for these patients," Conn said.
"We are impressed with the research and new hypothesis created by Vanderbilt and are excited to collaborate to take this work forward," Kim Andersen, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research at Lundbeck, said in a news release.
"Huge unmet medical needs remain within schizophrenia, a debilitating and potentially life threatening disease, and we are hopeful that this may enable us to provide a new treatment that could improve the life of many patients," Andersen said.
Schizophrenia is thought to result from the excessive release of the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain. The Vanderbilt compounds have been shown in animal models to block dopamine release in several key brain regions through the selective activation of a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor.
"This is an entirely new approach to treat schizophrenia," Conn said, "and it also is being explored as a potential treatment for behavioral disturbances in Alzheimer's disease and other neuropsychiatric disorders."
"This collaboration will speed development of a new class of potentially promising treatments for schizophrenia's cognitive deficits and negative symptoms, which go largely unaddressed by existing medications," added NIMH Director Joshua A. Gordon, MD, PhD.
Under the two-year extendable collaboration agreement, Vanderbilt and Lundbeck will identify additional compounds and further develop existing compounds. A selected drug candidate is expected to be ready for transition into clinical development by 2020.
Vanderbilt will receive an upfront payment as well as success-based milestones and royalties on global sales of products developed under the collaboration.