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03 Jul 2019

The University of Dundee‘s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) has announced a multi-million-pound partnership with Korean-based Bukwang Pharmaceutical Company in a bid to develop a new drug treatment for Parkinson’s disease. This announcement builds upon existing drug discovery partnerships the DDU has with Takeda and GSK.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease, affecting around two people in every 1000 across the population. There are around 6.1 million people worldwide and 120,000 people in the UK living with the condition.

A key biological event in the development of Parkinson’s disease is the accumulation and misfolding of a small protein in the brain called α–synuclein, which can kill nerve cells. Research at the University of Oxford has shown that an enzyme, USP8, prevents the natural breakdown of α–synuclein.

Working in collaboration with Dr George Tofaris at the University of Oxford, the DDU has identified series of drug-like molecules that block USP8 and could reduce the levels of α–synuclein in the brain, potentially providing a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Beckie Port, Research Manager at Parkinson's UK, says:

"Finding treatments that target the alpha-synuclein protein holds promise for one day slowing or stopping the progression of Parkinson’s - something no current treatment can do.

"It's an exciting time for Parkinson's research. Our increased understanding of the biology of the condition means we're now at a stage to turn our wealth of knowledge into much-needed treatments for people with Parkinson's.

"It’s great to hear that researchers from the University of Dundee are joining forces with the University of Oxford, and Bukwang pharmaceutical company, to drive forward the development of drugs to help all those living with Parkinson’s."

The partnership with Bukwang Pharm strengthens the existing Dundee - Oxford relationship, which has been supported by the Medical Research Council. Bukwang Pharm will facilitate a further three-year programme of work at Dundee and Oxford to advance these drug-like molecules towards clinical development

The aim of is to formulate much-needed therapies for Parkinson’s disease and other diseases where α–synuclein pathology is implicated. Bukwang Pharm holds an exclusive option to acquire worldwide development and commercialisation rights of resulting novel molecules.

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the Drug Discovery Unit says:

“We are delighted to be announcing this partnership with Bukwang Pharm. Drug discovery for neurological disorders is especially challenging and an area where academia and industry need to be working together. This project brings together the clinical and translational research expertise in Oxford with Dundee’s professional drug discovery capabilities allowing us to move one stage further towards a treatment.”

Hee-Won Yoo, CEO Bukwang Pharm says:

“Bukwang Pharm has a firm focus on research and development and a real commitment to innovation in drug development. We are very impressed with the DDU’s depth of expertise and track record and are pleased to be able to include the University of Oxford in this new partnership.”

Dr Beckie Port, Research Manager at Parkinson's UK, says:

"Finding treatments that target the alpha-synuclein protein holds promise for one day slowing or stopping the progression of Parkinson’s - something no current treatment can do.

"It's an exciting time for Parkinson's research. Our increased understanding of the biology of the condition means we're now at a stage to turn our wealth of knowledge into much-needed treatments for people with Parkinson's.
"It’s great to hear that researchers from the University of Dundee are joining forces with the University of Oxford, and Bukwang pharmaceutical company, to drive forward the development of drugs to help all those living with Parkinson’s."

Notes to editors

About the Drug Discovery Unit
The DDU was established in 2006 to translate world-class biology research into novel drug targets and candidate drugs to address unmet medical need. The initial focus was on diseases of the developing world where the University of Dundee has a considerable international reputation. Success in this area allowed the DDU to broaden its remit to include a broad range of diseases including cancer, inflammatory disease and disease of the central nervous system.
The DDU is based in purpose-built facilities at the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences.
http://www.drugdiscovery.dundee.ac.uk/home

Point of contact for journalists
Dr David Gray, Head of Biology d.w.gray@dundee.ac.uk

About Bukwang Pharmaceutical Company
Bukwang Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. was established on 17 October 1960 and has continued to produce excellent medications with the aim of improving global health for the last 55 years. Since Bukwang was listed in the Korea Stock Exchange [KRX:003000] in 1988, Bukwang is proud to have kept a healthy financial status and stable track record that earned trust from its employees and shareholders.

Bukwang covers various therapeutic areas including liver, metabolic, respiratory and CNS disease with licensed original products from Europe, the United States and Japan. Bukwang continues to invest significant resources in R&D to create a robust pipeline through consistent focus on new drug development for the treatment of CNS disorders, oncology and immune disease.
https://www.bukwangpharm.com/