The partnership is aiming to develop a novel approach to damage repair in multiple sclerosis from a number of potential drug candidates.
The University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) announced this month that it is partnering with South Korean-based Yuyu Pharma in an effort to collaborate on the development—as well as the evaluation of safety and efficacy—of a novel treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
The project is being led by Rhonda Voskuhl, MD, Jack H. Skirball Professor of MS Research, and director, UCLA MS Program; and Michael E. Jung, PhD, presidential chair, Medicinal Chemistry, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and associate dean for entrepreneurship and innovation, UCLA College Division of Physical Sciences.
This collaboration came together through the efforts of UCLA’s Technology Development Group, which aims to bring the university’s research community’s innovations to the marketplace and is headed by Amir Naiberg, who serves as UCLA associate vice chancellor and the CEO and president of the Technology Development Group. “We are excited that Yuyu Pharma chose UCLA as its first academic institution partner in the US,” Naiberg said in a statement.
“I am very excited to advance my laboratory’s basic discovery of a novel approach to repair damage in the brain in multiple sclerosis. Our team at UCLA in partnership with Yuyu aims to bring this to patients by sharing our unique and complementary areas of expertise,” Voskuhl said in a statement.
The research by Voskuhl and Jung that produced the drug candidates involved in this project was supported by the UCLA Innovation Fund, which the university noted provides funding to speed UCLA technologies from idea to market, bridging the funding gap between academia and industry.
“This new research collaboration embodies the mission of the UCLA Innovation Fund: to catalyze our promising academic research out to strong industry partners,” said Thomas Lipkin, director of the fund and of new ventures for the Technology Development Group. “The UCLA and Yuyu collaboration is instrumental in moving this promising technology forward.”
This news came on the heels of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2021, February 25-27, during many of the conversations highlighted the need for more treatments in MS—particularly for the progressive forms of the disease, which differ greatly from the relapsing phases and lacks therapies. Currently, the treatments approved for progressive disease are all indicated for patients with active disease relapses, but not those experiencing the neuroinflammatory effects.
Benjamin Segal, MD, chair, Department of Neurology, and, director, Neuroscience Research Institute, The Ohio State University, discussed this therapeutic hole in his Kenneth P. Johnson Memorial Lecture. He shared his insight with NeurologyLive, specifically speaking to the differences between the phases of disease on a molecular level—pointing to the microglial activity that is featured in progressive disease.
“As we age, there is a systemic, low-grade chronic inflammation and the release of a lot of pro-inflammatory molecules from macrophages throughout the body. Some of these pro-inflammatory molecules may cross the blood-brain barrier and cause this widespread microglial activation that we see in progressive MS,” Segal explained.
Segal also gave his perspective on the benefits of disease-modifying treatment for patients with progressive MS. Often, he noted, patients at this point in the disease can spend many years without a clinical attack or enhancing lesion, at which point physicians are faced with broaching the topic of discontinuing therapy. Watch Segal explain his experience in this situation below.