Vanderbilt extends its longest ongoing drug discovery agreement with pharmaceutical company through 2023


Vanderbilt has extended its longest ongoing drug discovery agreement with Osaka, Japan-based Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a research and development-oriented pharmaceutical company that is committed to creating innovative medicines in specific areas, through November 2023. The initial agreement was signed in November 2015, and this was its fourth extension.


Vanderbilt’s participation will continue to be jointly led by Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery director Craig Lindsley, the William K. Warren, Jr. Chair in Medicine and University Professor of biochemistry, chemistry and pharmacology, Jerod Denton, professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology and director of ion channel pharmacology at the WCNDD, and Jerri Rook, research associate professor of pharmacology and director of behavioral pharmacology at the WCNDD.


The collaboration is focused on an under-explored family of ion channels and transporters, for which the joint WCNDD-Ono teams first developed a variety of tests and then tool compounds to validate how altering these ion channels’ preclinical models affects a variety of central nervous system conditions. Armed with validation that the identified ion channels can be modulated, the team aims to discover clinical candidates for potential new therapeutics.


“Such a successful cooperative effort is never guaranteed, so it is great to be able to continue and extend what has been Vanderbilt’s longest ongoing drug discovery collaboration with Ono,” said Thomas Utley, senior licensing officer at the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. “The collaborationis only possible because of the great working relationship that Ono brings to the table.”


Throughout the collaboration, Lindsley, Denton and Rook have hosted nine visiting scientists from Ono, which has provided tremendous opportunities for shared learning and cultural exchange.


“Vanderbilt University/the WCNDD has excellent accomplishments in drug discovery,” said Toichi Takino, Senior Executive Officer / Executive Director, Discovery & Research of Ono Pharmaceutical. “I am sure the synergy of the university’s technologies with Ono’s R&D experience will generate innovative medicine to fulfill unmet medical needs.”


At the collaboration’s outset, Lindsley’s group, led by Darren Engers, research assistant professor of pharmacology and WCNDD director of medicinal chemistry, focused on medicinal chemistry and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK). Denton’s group assayed compounds and performed patch clamp electrophysiology, and the Rook lab evaluated compounds in preclinical models.


“The collaboration with Ono has been terrific at every possible level,” Lindsley said. “Together, we are creating new compounds that are deciphering the roles and therapeutic potential of a unique class of ion channels, and we now have our sights on moving these into clinical development.”


Denton added: “The ion channels we’re working on with Ono are considered some of the toughest drug targets out there. By leveraging the deep expertise and resources afforded by this collaboration, we’ve developed pre-clinical tool compounds of which most ion channel pharmacologists can only dream.”