Imperial partners with Heptares to search for new gut drugs

A new partnership will see gut experts from Imperial work alongside industry scientists to develop new treatments for gastrointestinal conditions.

The strategic collaboration will bring together teams at Imperial College London and Heptares to rapidly advance drug discovery and translational research.

Breakthroughs in this field could ultimately help to the improve quality of life for patients living with inflammatory bowel disease

- Professor Jonathan Weber

Acting Dean of Medicine

The work will see researchers focus on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, building on existing knowledge of key targets in the gut called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) to develop new treatments for GI disease.

Gastrointestinal disease is the third most common cause of death in the UK.

The GI tract represents the largest endocrine organ in the body, producing multiple hormones that act on a wide range of GPRCs in the GI tract and throughout the body. In addition, many of these have been found to play a role in a number of GI diseases.

Multi-year partnership

The new partnership aims to build on the significant progress made in understanding how GPCRs in the GI tract can be modulated. It will also support the development of new treatments for GI disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Professor Jonathan Weber , Acting Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “We hope this new partnership between Imperial and industry researchers will bring great benefits to science and public health.

“Breakthroughs in this field could ultimately help to the improve quality of life for patients living with inflammatory bowel disease, which affects more than half a million people in the UK alone.”

Professor Gary Frost , Chair in Nutrition and Dietetics and head of the Nutrition and Food Network at Imperial College London, added: “This research will build on the growing body of knowledge around these key membrane receptors in the gut, investigating their potential in therapeutic interventions.

“We hope this new collaboration with Heptares will enable us to uncover new druggable targets and develop new treatments which could have far-reaching impact for patients with GI conditions.”

Drug discovery and development

Through the multi-year partnership, Heptares, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sosei Group Corporation , will fund and support various programmes of work in terms of target discovery and validation and will be responsible for the progression and commercialisation of any compounds resulting from the collaboration.

The collaboration will also support ongoing discovery and development programmes at Sosei/Heptares.

Malcolm Weir, Chief R&D Officer of Sosei and Heptares, said “Collaboration with world-class academic research groups is integral to our long-term drug discovery strategy.

"These groups provide the fundamental science and biological insights to the role of GPCRs in human disease to which Heptares can apply its world-leading GPCR-targeted drug discovery and translational medicine capabilities to generate new drug candidate molecules for advancement through our pipeline.

“This collaboration with Imperial College London builds on existing GPCR programmes implicated in immune disorders and GI function and we are excited by the potential it offers to support the identification and translation of new therapies for patients with GI diseases.”

Image credit (main): Thomas Angus / Imperial College London

Image credit (inset): BlurryMe/Shutterstock.com

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