UCB announces third research collaboration with Harvard University

UCB announced that it has launched a third collaborative research project with Harvard that builds upon the innovative Research Alliance they both signed in 2011. The third research project named ‘Mining the Human Microbiome’ will be headed by Christophe Benoist, M.D., Ph.D., Dennis Kasper, M.D., and Diane Mathis, Ph.D., all Professors in the Division of Immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. The team will be studying the human microbiome in the intestine, classifying new species in studying their impact on the immune system in order to identify new drugs for preventing or treating immunological diseases. UCB will provide up to $4.5 million over three years to fund the project.

A microbiome is the totality of microbes, their genetic elements and environmental interactions in a particular environment. Adult humans contain, on average, some 100 trillion bacteria in their intestines alone. These bacteria are believed to be central to their host’s well-being while heavily influencing the immune system.

The Harvard investigators plan to systematically mine the human microbiome to look for new immunomodulatory molecules in the intestine with potential therapeutic applications. In order to do so, their labs have designed an interdisciplinary project using recent technological advances in next generation sequencing, whole-genome and single molecule transcript profiling and polychromatic flow cytometry.

“We hope this project will fundamentally shift the paradigm of drug development for immunological diseases, exploiting naturally occurring molecules evolutionarily designed to thwart or harness the immune system,” said the Harvard investigators. “If found, these molecules would be of enormous potential for probing immune system function, therapeutic application and as a preventative therapy.”

“We are pleased to enter into this, our third innovative collaboration with UCB, which once again couples leaders in academia and industry to drive translation and advance frontier research from the lab to the clinic,” said Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard’s Chief Technology Development Officer and head of its Office of Technology Development. “Harvard’s collaboration with UCB is a model of how universities can work with industry to advance the progress of medicine and serve the public interest, which is fundamental to Harvard’s core mission.”

“This is the third collaboration we have initiated with Harvard in the last 18 months. Our continued alliance with this renowned institution is testimony to our belief in Harvard’s excellence in scientific research and in the strength of our open innovation model,” said Ismail Kola, President of UCB NewMedicines, UCB’s research and early development division. “Microbiome is one of modern science’s most exciting fields of research and we are confident that this new collaboration will benefit patients by enabling us to meet unmet health care needs in immunology.”

About UCB

UCB, Brussels, Belgium is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of innovative medicines and solutions to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases of the immune system or of the central nervous system. With more than 8,000 people in about 40 countries, the company generated revenue of EUR 3.2 billion in 2011. UCB is listed on Euronext Brussels (symbol: UCB).

About Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development

The Harvard Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for all activities pertaining to the evaluation, patenting and licensing of new inventions and discoveries made at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. OTD also serves to further the development of Harvard technologies through the establishment of sponsored research collaborations with industry. OTD’s mission is to promote the public good by fostering innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard into useful products available and beneficial to society.

About the UCB-Harvard research alliance

Under the collaborative alliance with Harvard, UCB is bringing its expertise on antibody generation and medicinal chemistry and providing up to $6 million in a multiyear agreement to fund specific innovative research projects led by Harvard scientists. Within the current collaboration agreement, three projects have been funded: one with Professor Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health in antibodies, the second recent one with Junying Yuan, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School in Autophagy. The third project is headed by Christophe Benoist, M.D., Dennis Kasper, Ph.D and Diane Mathis, Ph.D., Professors of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School and will study the human microbiome The collaboration focuses on immunology, a key research domain for UCB.

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