University of Dundee

Collaboration to target severe skin diseases

08 Oct 2020

The University of Dundee is to partner with global biopharmaceutical company Almirall to develop new treatments for severe skin diseases with high level of unmet medical need. The collaboration will accelerate the discovery of innovative medicines by bringing together Almirall’s expertise in dermatology with the world-leading work of Professor Alessio Ciulli, from the University’s School of Life Sciences.

Professor Ciulli is a pioneer in the field of proteolysis-targeting chimeras (PROTACs), a new pharmaceutical modality with the potential to revolutionise drug discovery. While most conventional drugs inhibit cellular targets, PROTACs actually destroy them by manipulating the cell’s natural system for clearing unwanted or damaged proteins.

There are many severe skin diseases with a high level of unmet medical need, and the Almirall-Dundee collaboration aims to identify and develop a novel class of medicines that target and degrade the disease-causing proteins.

Professor Ciulli, Chair of Chemical Structural Biology at Dundee and an award-winning biochemist said, “We are looking forward to working on this new research collaboration with Almirall and excited to partner with one of the world-leading companies in the therapeutic area of dermatology. We will work together to advance a next-generation of first-in-class degraders as pharmaceutical agents. These will eliminate protein drivers of disease to ultimately benefit patients.”

PROTACs are designed to co-opt the cell’s natural disposal system (the ubiquitin-proteasome) to remove disease-driving proteins and are expected to be broadly applicable to diverse therapeutic areas such as immuno-dermatology, onco-dermatology, immunology, oncology, and also respiratory diseases.

“This partnership is an example of how world class university researchers and the pharmaceutical industry can work together to accelerate drug discovery and improve patients’ lives by transformative medicines,” said Dr Thomas Huber, Research Director at Almirall.

The main objective of this collaboration is to identify and develop new PROTAC degrader compounds on a set of innovative and exclusive biological targets defined by Almirall that qualify key research milestones for further development as candidate drugs.