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Evotec, Harvard partner up to develop new antibacterials

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More biotech companies are forging academic partnerships as they downsize their internal R&D efforts, and another outfit to ride that wave is Germany's Evotec AG. Evotec will collaborate with Harvard University to hunt for and develop novel anti-bacterial agents in hopes of creating a new class of antibiotics

"The lack of new antibacterials has been broadly recognized as a major unmet medical need as antibiotics pipelines are drying up while resistance against existing drugs is on the rise," Evotec CEO Dr. Werner Lanthaler said in a statement.

Using assays, chemical starting points and x-ray crystallographic tools licensed from Harvard, Evotec and Harvard researchers' work will focus on identifying small molecule inhibitors of bacterial cell wall synthesis. Researchers will target peptidoglycan biosynthesis (PGB), a pathway that is a critical process in the bacterial cell that acts as a prime target for the design of antibiotics. 

The partnership will tap the extensive research of Daniel Kahne and Suzanne Walker, professors in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and in the Departments of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology and Microbiology and Immunobiology, respectively, in the antibacterial space.

"We are confident this collaboration will put us in a strong position to translate the science and develop a new class of antibiotics against this well conserved target," Kahne said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Evotec will commercialize any assets resulting from the project.

This is not the first time the German company has partnered with Harvard. In 2011, Evotec teamed up with the Ivy League school and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute on a diabetes drug initiative. That collaboration proved to be a boon for both Harvard and Evotec when Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) bought their regenerative diabetes treatment portfolio for $300 million in July 2012.

- here's the press release
- read the GEN item

Special Report: 20 Major Pharma-Academic Alliances in 2012

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