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Evotec, Foundation Partner on Rare Juvenile Disease

Brain illustration

(DARPA.gov)

20 October 2015. The drug discovery company Evotec AG and Beyond Batten Disease Foundation are collaborating on discovery of new drugs to treat juvenile Batten disease, a rare inherited neurodegenerative disorder. Financial details of the partnership were not revealed.

Batten disease is a rare genetic condition of the nervous system that in most cases begins in childhood, where symptoms start appearing between the ages of 5 and 10. Those early symptoms can be subtle and include vision problems and seizures, as well as behavior changes, slow learning, and clumsiness. The symptoms become worse over time leading to blindness, severe seizures, and loss of motor skills. The disease is often fatal by one’s late teens or twenties.

Evotec, in Hamburg, Germany offers drug discovery services in the areas of neuroscience, pain, metabolic diseases, oncology, inflammation, and infectious diseases. The company generally works through collaborations with research labs and drug companies, providing target identification and validation, hit identification, and candidate development including biologics.

In the partnership with Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, Evotec will provide its preclinical testing services to evaluate the potential of drug candidates from academic labs in the U.S. and Europe to treat juvenile Batten disease. The foundation, based in Austin, Texas, says it is providing “substantial research funding” for this effort that continues through 2017, with an option to extend the deal further.

Understanding of Batten disease received a boost in March 2015, with the publication of a study by Andrea Ballabio of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine connecting calcium cell signals to Transcription Factor E Basic, or TFEB, a protein-coding gene. Ballabio and colleagues earlier discovered the influence of TFEB in regulating basic cell functions, and are studying the potential for manipulating TFEB to promote cell clearance as a way of treating Batten disease.

Evotec calls this type of partnership an EVT execute alliance, where the company performs therapy or biomarker discovery services for a fee. The company has several of these collaborations underway with pharmaceutical companies and foundations.

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