URMC and Temple University Announce Drug Discovery Partnership

August 18, 2011

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Temple University School of Pharmacy have announced a partnership that will help translate novel medical research into new drugs for treating diseases. 

“This is a perfect marriage of the world class drug discovery and medicinal chemistry programs of Temple University with the strong biomedical expertise of URMC and its faculty,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., chair of the URMC Department of Microbiology and Immunology. “I am excited by the opportunities this creates to explore innovative therapeutic approaches and targets.”

“We are pleased and excited to establish this relationship with the University of Rochester Medical Center and its scientists and faculty,” said Magid Abou-Gharbia, Ph.D., Director of Temple University’s Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research, based at the School of Pharmacy. “The disease program areas of URMC overlap significantly with those of the Moulder Center. The two organizations bring complementary experience and skills to the table and the combination of the two will undoubtedly lead to many new drug discovery projects and increase the chances of identifying new drugs for treating unmet medical needs.”

Abou-Gharbia – who previously worked as senior vice president of Discovery Research at Wyeth for 26 years – has led the Moulder Center since its creation in 2008. The Center, which is located at Temple University in Philadelphia, is home to a unique, state-of-the-art laboratory that brings together pharmaceutical talent, instrumentation, and software to create one of the nation’s top centers for integrated drug research.     

The partnership reflects a growing trend in medical research in which academic institutions have become more directly involved in the drug discovery process, a role that has historically been filled by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. As drug companies cut back on in-house research and development and become more risk-averse, they are increasingly looking to universities to conduct the early stage research necessary to identify promising new discoveries. For academic institutions, this means playing a more active role in identifying and guiding new compounds from the earliest stages of research along the path to becoming a new drug.

The partnership complements URMC’s strength in fundamental biomedical research; specifically, identifying molecular and genetic “targets” that trigger disease. Over the last five years, the University of Rochester has received more than $1.9 billion in external research funding – much of it focused in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromedicine, musculoskeletal disease, and immunology and infectious disease.   The more recently established Moulder Center has already received over $10 million dollars in funding from private donations, federal grants, contract research and a recent Temple University Drug Discovery Research Initiative.

The agreement enables scientists at the two institutions to collaborate and move these discoveries to the next stage of research by identifying compounds that act upon these new targets and may ultimately form the basis for new therapeutics.   URMC scientists will work with Moulder Center’s medicinal chemistry and other drug development capabilities to rapidly screen large numbers of compounds to identify novel drug candidates that can undergo a battery of pre-clinical tests in the lab and in animal models necessary to ensure that they are stable, not toxic, and act as intended. 

Some 30 URMC research projects have already been identified as potential candidates for this collaboration. These include novel approaches that could lead to new treatments for bacterial pathogens such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Acinetobacter baumannii, which are notorious for their ability to evade conventional drug treatments and are widely regarded as two of the most important bacterial threats to health. Other ongoing URMC research is aimed at developing treatments for fungal diseases caused by Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans, pathogens that affect premature infants, patients receiving cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants, and those living with HIV/AIDS.

While collaborations between URMC and Temple researchers are already underway, the partnership will kick-off on October 17, 2011 at the first annual Drug Discovery symposium at the University of Rochester. This meeting is designed to provide a formal venue for URMC and Temple scientists to interact, discuss ongoing projects, and introduce new collaborative opportunities. URMC researchers interested in participating or who are interested in more information about the Drug Discovery symposium should contact Paul Dunman, Ph.D. at paul_dunman@urmc.rochester.edu.

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