Eisai has formed a research collaboration to support oncology drug discovery using proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTAC), which comprise two covalently linked protein-binding molecules.

The Japanese pharmaceutical company and the University of Dundee in Scotland will perform joint research in PROTACs. These molecules enable the degradation and removal of target proteins that do not have enzyme activity by leveraging intracellular protein degradation.

One PROTAC binds to a ubiquitin ligase (E3 ligase), while the other binds to a target protein and causes degradation. This mechanism involves engaging an E3 ligase to tag the target protein for ubiquitination and degradation.

Through the research collaboration, Eisai intends to explore the potential of drug discoveries for proteins present in cancer. The company is keen to tap the potential of PROTACs as it is difficult to target these proteins using conventional small molecule inhibitors.

University of Dundee School of Life Sciences professor Alessio Ciulli will head the PROTACs research project.

In a statement, Eisai said: “The collaboration combines the world-leading expertise and technology of the Professor Alessio Ciulli laboratory in PROTACs research with Eisai’s discovery researches and clinical development experiences in oncology area as well as findings of target protein degradation based on our basic researches to aim to create innovative new drugs.”

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The agreement provides Eisai with the option of developing and commercialising any compounds obtained from the research project. If the company chooses to exercise this option, the University of Dundee will be entitled to receive an upfront payment, milestone payments and royalties on sales.

Last week, the university forged an alliance with Korea-based Bukwang Pharmaceutical Company to develop a drug to treat Parkinson’s disease.

In February this year, the University of Dundee also partnered with Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda to develop potential therapeutic treatments for tau pathology.