In a new partnership with the academia—and in a comparatively speaking new therapeutic area for Evotec—the CRO will apply its leading induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to identify novel drug candidates for retinal diseases.
The Technische Universität Dresden Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), also an expert in stem cells, is the other party in the research collaboration and will contribute its expertise in stem cell-based disease modeling. It is currently using its understanding of stem cells, physiological and pathological tissue and organ repair to develop treatments for neurodegenerative, hematological, metabolic and bone diseases.
Using patient-derived iPSCs that can be developed into various cell types contained in the retina, the two parties will build models for drug research in different eye diseases.
“CRTD is a world leader in stem cell-derived modeling of retinal disease and thus fits perfectly into our strategy to continue to build and expand Evotec's unique iPSC based drug discovery platform,” Evotec CSO Cord Dohrmann said in a statement.
The new relationship will be nurtured under Evotec’s non-outsourcing segment called EVT Innovate, which links academic innovation with Evotec’s industrialized drug discovery capabilities to advance early drug assets to the point of potential biopharma company buyouts or new spin-out companies.
Alliances with Yale University and the University of Oxford are existing examples of the platform. One year into operation, the novel £13 million drug discovery partnership Evotec formed with Oxford and the university’s venture fund back in November 2016 has already successfully accelerated 12 drug R&D projects at the university. The project model has also been introduced to Canada in a partnership between Evotec and MaRS Innovation, which has 15 member institutions, with more deals to be announced later.
The business model looks familiar to Evotec, but the therapeutic area of ophthalmology is perhaps new territory, since its key areas of expertise are in diabetes, oncology, neurodegeneration, pain and inflammation.
Evotec recognizes the potential of global retinal dystrophy market, which includes both rare genetic diseases as well as more common disorders like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. “Whilst cell replacement and gene therapies will likely play an important role in the future, there continues to be a need for small molecule treatments as both monotherapy and in combination with other therapies,” the company said in the statement.
The German CRO has been bulking up its iPSC offerings lately, with new deals signed with Censo Biotechnologies, the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology and the newly merged Ncardia.