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Pfizer joins open-access medicinal chemistry public-private collaboration

The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and Pfizer today announced that Pfizer will join the SGC-led public-private collaboration to generate small molecule inhibitors "chemical probes" for proteins involved in epigenetic signalling.

Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are now members of this collaboration, launched in late 2008 with the aim to provide the community with high quality research reagents, free from restriction on use.

Globally the collaboration includes the three SGC laboratories in Oxford, Toronto and Stockholm, the National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center in Bethesda, the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, the Department of Chemistry at Ume University and a number of additional collaborators in academia. The program has been awarded a total of US $15M in grant support from the Wellcome Trust, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation in Canada and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research to support activities in the UK, Canada and Sweden, respectively.

The collaboration aims to develop small molecules that can stimulate or block the activity of proteins involved in epigenetic control. The study of epigenetics addresses heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence. Alterations in these processes are linked to many common diseases, and there is a strong belief that a better understanding of epigenetics could eventually lead to treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and many psychiatric diseases. Epigenetics is an area of biology that is poorly understood and the availability of chemical probes should dramatically increase our understanding; some of these probes may also be starting points for drug discovery.

Pfizer is joining the program after having formalized an agreement with the University of Oxford, SGC and GSK. Pfizer will, like GSK, provide medicinal chemistry support to the project. The collaboration is special in that it brings the medicinal chemistry expertise within industry together with the biological expertise within academia to address an emerging area of biology. The ability to add extra industrial members further demonstrates this consortium as a potential working model for pre-competitive interactions between academia and industry within the field of medicinal chemistry.

In keeping with SGC policy, the structure and function of each probe will be made freely available.

Dr Tony Wood, Vice President and Heads of Worldwide Medicinal Chemistry at Pfizer, said: "This collaboration exemplifies our thinking with respect to public-private collaboration that facilitate 'blue sky' research between industry and academia. It is hoped that combining forces in this way will lead to the rapid development and deployment of research tools. This should help us understand the role that this important group of gene families play in human disease and should aid the overarching goal of providing effective medicines to patients."

Dr Aled Edwards, the SGC Chief Executive, adds: "The problem we are tackling together is too big for any single laboratory or organization. We are thrilled that to have two leaders in pharmaceutical research and medicinal chemistry in this global project, and are delighted at this opportunity to collaborate with some of the top medicinal chemists in the world."


Contact: Johan Weigelt
Wellcome Trust

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