Novartis has expanded its research-based partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, US, to discover new therapeutic modalities and address ‘undruggable’ disease targets.

Based on the successes over the last five years, the alliance will develop new technologies to discover next-generation therapies. 

The merged team of researchers is analysing various disease targets in cancer, as well as other ailments that have escaped conventional small-molecule compounds and drug discovery approaches.

Through this alliance, the researchers at UC Berkeley can collaborate with counterparts at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) to discover new treatments for debilitating diseases. 

The Novartis-Berkeley Translational Chemical Biology Institute based at UC Berkeley is the partnership’s second stage.

The science and approach behind this partnership aim to utilise covalency, together with chemoproteomics technology, to facilitate small-molecule compound discovery, which could become the basis of proximity-based therapies.

Later on, the collaboration will progress to developing novel chemistries and chemical technologies to target undruggable proteins.

It will also develop emerging treatment modalities such as targeted protein degradation (TPD) which use the natural protein disposal system of the cell to destroy proteins that cause diseases. 

Furthermore, the alliance will develop new treatment modalities that offer access to bigger areas of the undruggable protein landscape.

UC Berkeley Chemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology and Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology professor Daniel Nomura said: “One of the biggest challenges facing drug discovery is that the majority of proteins are currently still considered ‘undruggable’. 

“Most proteins do not possess well-defined binding pockets or ‘ligandable hotspots’ that can be pharmacologically and functionally targeted for therapeutic benefit. 

“Tackling these undruggable proteins requires the development of innovative technologies for ligand discovery and the discovery of novel therapeutic modalities to functionally manipulate these intractable proteins for therapeutic benefit.”