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November 2007 Issue
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Computational models of proteins and binding sites, similar to the one above, will help drug discovery experts at UC and Pharmasset as they work to develop new drugs for viral infections.
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UC Inks Deal for Drug Discovery

By Dama Ewbank
Published November 2007

UC is teaming up with a clinical stage pharmaceutical company to discover, develop and commercialize new drugs for viral infections.

The agreement pairs Princeton, N.J.-based Pharmasset with drug discovery experts at UC’s Genome Research Institute (GRI) in a search to identify compounds that could be used against hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. 

The agreement gives Pharmasset access to GRI’s chemical compound library, a collection of more than 250,000 compounds, as well as other drug-discovery capabilities such as ultra high-throughput (HTS) screening and computational chemistry.

The pharmaceutical company will test specific drug “targets” against GRI’s chemical library using the ultra HTS system. Potential drug candidates will be further tested using computational tools or modified further for increased specificity by Pharmasset’s medicinal chemists.

Pharmasset will make an annual payment to UC in support of the research collaboration and will be responsible for all product development expenses.

If a compound progresses to a “lead candidate,” through clinical development and achieves regulatory approval, Pharmasset will make milestone payments and pay royalties on any net sales of the product.   

Ruben Papoian, PhD, director of drug discovery at the GRI, says this partnership is a perfect example of the kinds of industry-academe collaborations the GRI is working to attract.

“We’ve worked hard to build a team of professionals who know science, but who also speak the language of the pharmaceutical industry,” says Papoian. “Potential partners appreciate our knowledge of their field and are impressed by the chemical and technological capabilities we’ve acquired.

“It’s our hope that other companies like Pharmasset will be able to benefit from the resources we can provide.”

The research collaboration and license agreement with Pharmasset marks an important step for UC’s GRI, says interim director George Thomas, PhD.

“This partnership is particularly important as we strive not only to discover new drug treatments with the potential to improve health, but also to provide a meaningful fiscal return on our research investment,” Thomas says.

“We believe that Pharmasset will be an excellent collaborative partner, as their team is experienced in the discovery and development of antiviral compounds.” 


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