Pharmaceutical funding

Five pharmaceutical companies are providing almost £11m in funding to a collaboration that aims to develop new drug treatments.

Five of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are providing almost £11m in funding to the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT), a collaboration that aims to develop new drug treatments.

AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck KGaA (through its Merck Serono division) and Pfizer will provide core support of £10.8m to the DSTT over the four-year period from 2008-2012.

The DSTT is a collaboration between the pharmaceutical companies and 13 research teams based at Dundee University. Eight of the teams are based within the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) protein phosphorylation unit at the college of life sciences at the university.

The DSTT was founded in 1998 and expanded in 2003, and over that period attracted funding of £23m. It is thought to be the largest collaboration between the UK academic community and the pharmaceutical industry. The new round of funding will secure 50 posts at Dundee University for the next four years.

Researchers at the DSTT work with the participating pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the development of improved drugs to treat global diseases – such as cancer, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis – and exert their effects by targeting two types of enzyme termed ‘kinases’and ‘phosphatases’.

Kinase drug discovery accounts for about 30 per cent of the R&D budget of the pharmaceutical industry and over 50 per cent of global cancer drug discovery.

The importance of the market is highlighted by the fact that in recent years 10 drugs that target kinases or phosphatases have been approved for clinical use. They include the drug Gleevec, which has shown spectacular efficacy in treating a form of Leukaemia called CML, and cyclosporin, the drug that prevents tissue rejection and permitted the widespread use of organ transplantation.

Under the terms of the new deal the companies will also pay additional unspecified sums to purchase reagents and services and to obtain licences to patents filed by the MRC and Dundee University.