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Navigating the maze of the mind
August 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


BRUSSELS, Belgium—Belgian company UCB, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on medicines and solutions for people living with severe diseases of the immune system or central nervous system, and American organization the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD) announced in early July that they will combine their mutual commitment to innovation and collaboration in a strategic collaboration for the discovery of new drug candidates for patients suffering from cognitive impairment.  
Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed, but the companies noted in a news release about the deal that they will jointly generate novel lead compounds and further optimize them starting from chemical compounds provided by both partners. In addition, the specific interdisciplinary structure of LIBD will bring to the collaboration its unique expertise in translating basic research and drug discovery into effective clinical proof of concept. Moreover, the research alliance between LIBD and UCB reflects UCB's "open innovation" approach that, as UCB notes, "aims to generate new knowledge and capitalize on external scientific advances and expertise that complement the company's unique internal capabilities and skills."  
The complexities of severe diseases are beyond the expertise and resources of a single organization, UCB notes on its website, and that is why it teams up with partners that "play to our strengths and tap into the organizations with greater or complementary strengths. Many companies claim to be patient-driven, but for UCB it is a living reality. In fact, we do not think of people with severe diseases as 'patients' but as individuals with lives beyond their disease."  
UCB touts a "networked, cross-functional organization" that is able to unlock the creative potential of its global team—numbering some 9,000 when its staff and strategic partners' staffs are combined—not simply through multidisciplinary team approaches, but also an intranet tool that the company says links knowledge and skills, including a virtual R&D collaboration platform based on the principles of Wikipedia.  
According to Ismail Kola, executive vice president of UCB and president of its New Medicines group, "This new partnership combines UCB's world-class central nervous system research teams with the Lieber Institute for Brain Development's unique understanding of basic genetic and molecular mechanisms of developmental brain disorders. Together, the two parties will embark on a mission to discover new medicines that aim to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases."  
"The Lieber Institute for Brain Development was established with historic philanthropic investment to create a new landscape for research about developmental brain disorders and to translate our understanding into changing the lives of affected individuals," adds Daniel Weinberger, director and CEO of LIBD, which is affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The partnership with UCB will advance this mission by providing new tools for scientific discovery and by developing new therapeutic agents."
In other recent central nervous system news, UCB announced in July that its U.S. generics-focused subsidiary Kremers Urban Pharmaceuticals Inc. has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 18-mg and 27-mg extended-release methylphenidate hydrochloride products and tentative approval for the 36mg and 54 mg dosages. UCB notes that the products are intended to compete with the brand-name drug Concerta for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the two larger doses can get official FDA approval after Concerta loses patent exclusivity in September.  
The privately endowed nonprofit Lieber Institute had its own additional news in July, noting that after being brought into the Johns Hopkins Science + Technology Park three years ago, it is surpassing its job growth goals and expanding, having leased some 13,000 square feet of new space. This expands its space by half and as such, plans call for hiring 15 to 20 more researchers, bringing staff levels to nearly 100.  
Code: E081312



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