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Bristol-Myers, Vanderbilt to Partner on Parkinson’s Drugs

Neuron illustration (NIH)

(National Institute on Aging, NIH)

Pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb and Vanderbilt University in Nashville will collaborate on new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, a progressive brain disorder. The financial magnitude and length of the multi-year agreement were not disclosed.

Under the deal, Vanderbilt’s Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery will identify drug candidates from current research being supported by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Those candidates target metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR4), proteins highly expressed in genes found in areas of the brain affecting Parkinson’s disease.

Positive allosteric modulators are compounds that act on mGluR4 and believed to correct the dysregulated signaling associated with Parkinson’s disease. These compounds may have the same effect as a surgical procedure found to alleviate symptoms of the disease.

Bristol-Myers Squibb will gain rights to develop and commercialize products resulting from the collaboration. Vanderbilt will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and research funding over multiple years for the discovery of additional compounds. Vanderbilt can also receive milestones and royalties based on the development of drugs from the collaboration and their worldwide sales.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly, although it can strike younger people, such as actor Michael J. Fox. As many as 1 million people have the disease. Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the brain that make dopamine are slowly destroyed, which interrupts signals from those nerve cells, leading to a loss of muscle function. Symptoms are shaking and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.

In May, Bristol-Myers Squibb formed a collaboration with researchers at 10 universities and institutes in the U.S., U.K., Italy, France, Netherlands, and Spain to study the harnessing of the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The company says the network is exploring a variety of compounds and immunotherapeutic approaches for patients with different types of cancer.

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