New protein degradation centre to lead drug discovery revolution

A new translational research centre will bolster the University of Dundee’s world-leading position in a field that is revolutionising drug discovery, while helping to facilitate the development of high growth companies and create skilled jobs.

April 14, 2021 I A new translational research centre will bolster the University of Dundee’s world-leading position in a field of chemical biology that is revolutionising drug discovery, while helping to facilitate the development of high growth companies and create skilled jobs.

The Centre for Targeted Protein Degradation (CeTPD) will be housed at the Technopole site adjacent to Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, with a fundraising target of £5 million being met by a mixture of public and private sources as well as University funds. The existing two-storey building will be fitted out with state-of-the-art facilities to allow Professor Alessio Ciulli and colleagues to expand their pioneering work in an area that has attracted billions of pounds of investment globally in the last five years.

The core team working on targeted protein degradation at the University will grow from around 25 currently to 50 when their labs are relocated to the new Centre, with further expansion planned as work in this exciting field of biomedical research develops.

Targeted protein degradation co-opts the cell’s natural disposal systems to remove disease-causing proteins and is applicable to diverse therapeutic areas including oncology, dermatology, immunology and respiratory diseases. As an entirely new approach, it provides hope of treating diseases previously thought to be undruggable. The first degrader drugs of these kind are advancing in clinical trials against cancer.

Professor Ciulli has revealed fundamental insights into the working of the degrader molecules that he designed and that are used across the globe. These and other discoveries have led to significant collaborations with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Amphista Therapeutics, the University spin out he founded, last month received a near-£40 million investment to further its work developing new drugs for a range of diseases.

“Targeted protein degradation is one of the most exciting areas of scientific study to have emerged in many years, one which is revolutionising drug development,” said Professor Ciulli. “We are only beginning to explore the true potential of TPD to produce next-generation therapeutics for a variety of diseases.

“Dundee is right at the heart of these efforts. We are one of a handful of institutions leading the world in TPD and this Centre is integral to our ambition of establishing Dundee as the undisputed pinnacle for training and innovating in TPD research.

“Our new home will provide opportunities for growth and to capitalise on the expertise we have established here. It will help to accelerate innovation and will also attract further investment and major collaboration partners in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Promoting further commercialisation is a key aim of CeTPD, which will be sited next to the new Tay Cities Regional Innovation Hub. This facility, funded as part of the Tay Cities Deal, will bring together world-class life sciences innovation and entrepreneurial expertise to drive high-growth company formation, providing new treatments and technologies.

The CeTPD is expected to contribute to a pipeline of spinout companies translating exceptional fundamental research into products that benefit patients across the world and underpin successful commercial entities.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said, “This development is pivotal to our ambition for Dundee to establish itself not just as a great place for scientific discovery which subsequently drives economic growth elsewhere but also as a leading location for us to grow the businesses we spin out and to create a vibrant bio-cluster here in Tayside.

“The investment we are making demonstrates our commitment to supporting and nurturing excellence, with the work of Professor Ciulli and colleagues truly leading the world in terms of TPD research.

“The industry partnerships that have subsequently developed have been heralded as exemplary by the pharmaceutical companies we work with. We are very excited by the prospect of the CeTPD helping to realise the scientific and commercial potential of this field and of our city.”

Work to fit out the Centre is already underway and is expected to be completed by early 2022.

SOURCE: University of Dundee

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