DALLAS, Texas, and South San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 11, 2014 – UT Southwestern Medical Center, 2M Companies, and Calico today announce a new collaboration to advance research and drug development for neurodegenerative disorders caused by the aging and death of nerve cells.
This week, UT Southwestern researchers published a new paper about the molecular target of P7C3 compounds, a class that has been shown to help in various animal models of neurodegeneration. UT Southwestern previously licensed the P7C3 compounds to Dallas-based 2M Companies. 2M and Calico have now entered into a new license agreement under which Calico will take responsibility for developing and commercializing the compounds resulting from the research program. Under the agreement, Calico will fund research laboratories in the Dallas area and elsewhere to support the program.
The P7C3 Program and Today’s Cell Paper
Death of nerve cells is the key mechanism in many devastating neurological diseases for which there are currently inadequate treatment options. UT Southwestern researchers Dr. Steven McKnight, Chairman of Biochemistry, Dr. Joseph Ready, Professor of Biochemistry, and Dr. Andrew Pieper, a former UT Southwestern faculty member who is now Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, have collaborated since 2007 to find novel drugs that promote the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, a process known as “neurogenesis.”
The P7C3 compounds discovered by the team have previously been shown to be effective in animal models of age-related neurocognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and depression. New research published today in the journal Cell shows that these drugs activate a cellular enzyme involved in energy metabolism, known as NAMPT (short for nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase), which is critical to the proper functioning and survival of cells. A separate study published today in Cell Reports shows that the P7C3 compounds protect against brain dysfunction when given to rodents following traumatic injury.
Licensing of the P7C3 Program
In 2010, UT Southwestern entered a licensing agreement with 2M Companies for the P7C3 program. Today’s agreement between 2M and Calico is an important further step in the process to commercialize these compounds. Under this agreement, 2M grants to Calico an exclusive worldwide license to the P7C3 program and other NAMPT modulators in exchange for an unspecified up-front fee, milestones, and royalty payments. Calico is the Google-backed life sciences company led by Arthur D. Levinson, former chairman and CEO of Genentech.
“Over the past decade Andrew Pieper, Joe Ready, and I have worked collaboratively to discover, characterize, and optimize the P7C3 class of neuroprotective chemicals. We are excited to join forces with Art Levinson, whom I have known and admired for over 25 years, and the Calico team to advance our scientific discoveries toward clinical and commercial objectives,” said Dr. McKnight.
Melissa Krauth, head of life science investing at 2M and its affiliate Claria Bioscience, commented, “After many years of fruitful collaboration with UT Southwestern and the P7C3 inventors, we are delighted to place the P7C3 program in the very capable hands of the Calico team. This agreement validates our strategy of partnering with exceptional scientists and investing in early-stage, high-impact technologies to advance them toward the clinic.”
Hal V. Barron, M.D., President of Research and Development at Calico, said, “This is an important collaboration for Calico. We look forward to working with the world-leading scientists who discovered the P7C3 class of molecules to learn whether the remarkable biological effects can be translated to the treatment of human disease.”
Frank Grassler, Vice President for Technology Development at UT Southwestern, noted, “Unique among academic medical centers, our medicinal chemists build on UT Southwestern’s world-renowned biomedical research to synthesize compounds that will become the therapies of the future. This collaboration and development agreement is a milestone for UT Southwestern and is a big boost for the Texas biomedical industry.”
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the world, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. Numbering more than 2,700, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 91,000 hospitalized patients and oversee more than 2 million outpatient visits a year. At UT Southwestern, Dr. McKnight holds the Distinguished Chair in Basic Biomedical Research, and The Sam G. Winstead and F. Andrew Bell Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry. Dr. Ready is Southwestern Medical Foundation Scholar in Biomedical Research. Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.edu.
About 2M Companies and Claria Bioscience, LLC
2M Companies is a Dallas-based family office and investment company focused on life science and technology companies and oil and gas mineral resources. 2M invests in life science opportunities through its affiliate Claria Bioscience, LLC. Claria is an investment and management firm focused on innovative, early-stage technologies that can dramatically improve people’s health and well-being. The Claria team partners with research groups, universities, inventors, and early-stage biotech companies, investing money, time, and expertise to accelerate development of their technologies. Visit http://www.2m.com and http://www.clariabio.com.
Calico (Calico Life Sciences LLC) is a Google-founded research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our knowledge of the biology that controls lifespan. Calico will use that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives. Visit http://www.calicolabs.com.