Drug Discovery Collaboration With New Licensing Agreement

Eisai Inc., the U.S. pharmaceutical subsidiary of Tokyo, Japan-based Eisai Co., Ltd., and Johns Hopkins University announced today that they have extended their drug discovery collaboration through an exclusive licensing agreement. The agreement is for a license of compounds identified from collaborative research between Eisai’s Andover Innovative Medicines (AiM) Institute in Andover, Mass., and Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery (JHDD). The compounds were the outcome of research carried out in the laboratory of Professor Barbara Slusher Ph.D., MAS, Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Medicine and Oncology at Johns Hopkins and the Director of JHDD, and is part of a broader ongoing collaborative research arrangement between Eisai and Johns Hopkins that is designed to translate new target discoveries into novel small molecule therapeutics for the development of medicines for neurology and oncology.

Eisai has licensed these select small molecule compounds and intellectual property for further research, development and commercialization at its AiM Institute. In return, Johns Hopkins will receive a one-time upfront payment of $500,000 for license consideration, as well as potential future milestones and royalties upon the successful commercialization of a product based on these compounds.

“This collaboration with Professor Slusher and her group was designed to fast track the development of medicines on innovative targets outside of our internal research portfolio,” said Fiona Randall, Ph.D., who is the External Alliance Manager at Eisai AiM Institute and leads the collaboration. “We are delighted to announce this first in-licensing success which marks an important milestone in our partnership, and as a reflection of Eisai’s belief in more positive outcomes we have also committed an additional $500,000 in general research support to the lab.”

In 2011, Eisai and Johns Hopkins formalized the initial joint drug discovery collaboration. Under the terms of that agreement, Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery, led by Professor Slusher, provided Eisai with novel therapeutic targets. For the targets of interest, screening assays were developed and validated by the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery team, and then transferred to Eisai who utilized the Johns Hopkins assay to conduct high-throughput screening of its proprietary compound library collection to identify compounds that interact with the targets. Utilizing hybrid industry-academic drug discovery teams, the newly identified screening compounds were then subject to extensive structure-activity relationship studies and characterization in preclinical models to identify lead compounds for potential clinical development.

“By combining Johns Hopkins’ unique drug targets and screening assays with Eisai’s diverse and rich chemical libraries, our integrated project teams worked together seamlessly to successfully identify clinical lead compounds for development,” Slusher said. “The success in this approach serves as a model for future pharma-academic collaborations.”

The Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery Program consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists with industrial experience and core expertise in drug discovery research, including medicinal chemistry, screening assay development, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics and animal pharmacology/toxicology.

“We are excited to continue our work with Professor Slusher and her drug discovery team at Johns Hopkins,” said Dr. Takashi Owa, Chief Clinical Officer & Chief Medical Officer of Eisai’s Oncology Business Group. “This collaboration continues to build momentum, and we look forward to moving this specific project towards a real benefit for patients with cancer.”

share on: