New deal brings Aberdeen drug for rheumatoid arthritis nearer to patients in need

New deal brings Aberdeen drug for rheumatoid arthritis nearer to patients in need

A new drug discovered in the laboratories of the University of Aberdeen to treat the common and painful condition of rheumatoid arthritis will be tested on patients next year.

The path to clinical trials is thanks to an R&D alliance and global option and licence agreement between Modern Biosciences plc (MBS) and Janssen Biotech, Inc.

The deal seven years ago between the University and drug development company MBS to progress the brand new therapy was hailed at the time as having the potential to revolutionise the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other inflammatory diseases.

Under the terms of the exclusive new agreement, MBS will receive an upfront payment and is eligible to receive development, regulatory and commercialisation milestone payments up to a potential total of £176 million. In addition, MBS will receive royalties on future sales of any products that may result from the alliance upon successful launch and commercialisation

RA is a severe, painful inflammatory disease that can cause progressive joint and bone erosion and eventually lead to disability. The new drug compounds work by  a novel mechanism of action that targets both the inflammatory component of RA and the associated bone destruction. This approach has the potential to not only protect the joints of people living with RA from further damage but to control the pain and swelling associated with the disease. The most advanced of MBS’ compounds is in pre-clinical development and is due to enter Phase 1 clinical studies in 2015.

Dr Iain Greig, Medicinal Chemist and Head of Operations at the University of Aberdeen’s Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics, led this research and welcomes the deal. Dr Greig said: “Having worked on these drugs for more than a third of my life, it is hugely exciting to see them moving through the development pathway – hopefully ending up as a ground-breaking treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

"It was an amazing achievement for us to have discovered and developed a new drug candidate with such a small team of people.  We were quite stunned when we first tested our compounds and realised their potential for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.”

The work of Dr Greig’s team was spun out by the University as a company OsteoRX Ltd, which entered a licence agreement with MBS. Prior to the involvement of MBS, the original work had been funded by the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept fund, a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship for Dr Greig, and  the university challenge fund NESTech.  

Sam Williams, CEO of MBS, said: “We are delighted to be working with Janssen to progress our novel series of compounds. MBS’ compounds have unique characteristics compared to existing treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and we believe Janssen is an ideal partner with which to take the molecules forward. This agreement demonstrates MBS’ business model, which is to take early-stage assets from academia and advance them to a point of value inflexion when they can be licensed to industry, generating a return for our stakeholders.

“Working with the team of chemists at the University of Aberdeen and Stuart Ralston, one of the original inventors, has been a highly rewarding experience for MBS and shows what is possible when industry collaborates with academia in a focused, collegiate manner. We are delighted that the Janssen deal allows our academic partners to finally see their hard work come to fruition.”