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Vanderbilt, Ono Pharmaceutical sign drug discovery agreement

Dec. 10, 2015, 9:38 AM

Officials with Ono Pharmaceutical Group visited Vanderbilt recently. On hand were, from left, Haruto Kurata, Ph.D., Kentaro Yashiro, Jerod Denton, Ph.D., Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., Hiromu Habashita, Ph.D., Kazuhito Kawabata, Ph.D., and Takahiro Mori. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Ono Pharmaceutical Group, an international company based in Japan, have signed a drug discovery agreement.

Vanderbilt’s participation is led by Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and William K. Warren Jr. Professor of Medicine, and Jerod Denton, Ph.D., MS, associate professor of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology.

In this early-stage drug discovery project, the identity of specific drug targets is confidential. The project will build on Lindsley’s experience in medicinal chemistry and genetics, and Denton’s previous work on the biology of potassium channels. The collaboration’s starting point is certain compounds identified by Ono as having potential applicability to patient problems such as pain, kidney disease and metabolic diseases.

Traveling from Japan, an Ono team visited Vanderbilt last month to review groundwork and sign the agreement.

Three Ono scientists — Haruto Kurata, Ph.D., Kentaro Yashiro and Takahiro Mori — are working at VUMC with Lindsley and Denton as visiting research fellows.

Tracing its history to an apothecary established in 1717 in Osaka, Japan, Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. today has research alliances around the globe.

“If we are fortunate enough to find something that moves through pre-clinical and clinical trials and eventually makes it to the market, then both Ono and Vanderbilt will benefit from that. We would be considered co-discoverers,” Denton said.

“I think this agreement speaks to the national and even international reputation that Vanderbilt has for doing early-stage drug discovery and working with pharmaceutical companies in productive collaborations,” he added.

Lindsley’s group will focus on modifying the basic compounds identified by Ono, and Denton’s group will work on in vitro biological testing. Through iterative cycles of medicinal chemistry and biological testing, the goal is to develop potent and specific modulators of cellular targets that can then be introduced in animal models to explore efficacy and physiological effects more generally.

Lindsley said the new agreement extends previous research collaborations between his lab and Ono chemists working at Vanderbilt’s Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

“The Ono scientists were simply outstanding and contributed to multiple publications in the past three years,” Lindsley said.

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