The Knowledge Industry program recognizes the potential of bioactive compounds developed by the ‘Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology’ group of the UB

The Knowledge Industry program is an initiative of the Department of Research and Universities of the Generalitat of Catalonia to encourage the transfer of research results. The consolidated research group Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology (MCP) of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB) has obtained more than 500,000 euros for seven grants within the framework of the last call for this program, six of them led by members of this group specialized in medicinal chemistry and pharmacology. These are projects at different stages of development – including both Llavor and Product and Innovative modalities – with the aim of accelerating the valorization and transfer of promising drugs against post-operative pain, various neurodegenerative diseases, glioblastoma, psoriasis and dermatitis. atopic.

The MCP group is managed by UB professors Mercè Pallàs, Rodolfo Lavilla, Carmen Escolano, Diego Muñoz-Torrero and Santiago Vázquez, all of them with their own financing and independent research but who share common objectives and equipment.

New therapeutic strategies against Alzheimer’s

Four of the grants received by researchers from the MCP group focus on neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s). Alzheimer’s disease alone affects more than 800,000 people in Spain and, despite the economic and research effort in recent years, it still does not provide care.

MCP researcher Christian Griñán Ferré, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and member of the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB, leads three of these projects: two in the Then modality – for innovative projects with the potential to be incorporated into the productive sector -and one of the Product modality- aimed at obtaining prototypes and valorization and transfer. All three focus on different drugs that target epigenetic regulation – that is, changes in gene expression or cellular phenotypes caused by aging and/or environmental factors that do not modify the DNA sequence.

The first Llavor grant (2023 LLAV 00005) has been for the development of new dual inhibitors of epigenetic enzymes that promote changes involved in learning and memory formation as well as the reduction of neuroinflammation. This new compound has shown in previous experiments great potency and selectivity to inhibit these proteins, little toxicity and being able to cross the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain, thus improving different markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The second Llavor grant (2023 LLAV 00007) focuses on the improvement of selective inhibitor compounds of an epigenetic protein associated with fat metabolism, developed by this research team, and which have been shown to reduce cognitive decline and markers of pathological aging. in previous studies in different murine models of neurodegenerative diseases. Both grants have obtained 20,000 euros in this call.

Professor Griñán Ferré has also received a Product grant of 150,000 euros (2023 PROD 00092), to continue developing a G9a methyltransferase inhibitor compound. This strategy, awarded with a Llavor grant in the 2021 call, has already obtained good results in a pilot study with an animal model – the C. elegans worm. The goal now is to take a step forward and demonstrate the effectiveness of this drug in vivo in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, Professor Diego Muñoz-Torrero has obtained a Product grant of 150,000 euros (2023 PROD 00079) for the development of a new class of compounds with a combined effect on two key therapeutic targets in the early phases of Alzheimer’s disease . The first results, achieved within the framework of a Llavor grant from the 2021 call, show that the compound developed by the researchers produces beneficial effects on cognition. The goal of this new valorization project is to turn the drug into a much higher value product through a robust demonstration of in vivo efficacy in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Hope against one of the deadliest cancers

Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive human cancers in adults. Currently, treatment consists of surgical resection followed by chemoradiotherapy, with a median survival rate of only 12 to 15 months, and with more than 50% of patients not responding to therapy. Professor Carmen Escolano, member of the Institute of Biomedicine of the UB (IBUB), has developed a new potential drug against this serious disease. It is a compound capable of overcoming the blood-brain barrier and has shown, in studies with cell lines, promising effects against the proliferation of cancer cells. In addition, it has been validated in a model of the disease in Drosophila melanogaster. With the new Llavor grant of 20,000 euros (2023 LLAV 00050), researchers will advance the preclinical development of this innovative drug.

A dual-action drug against post-operative pain

Annually, more than 300 million people around the world undergo surgery. More than half of these patients experience moderate to severe pain during the postoperative period, despite the use of numerous analgesics, often of the opioid type. Professor Santiago Vázquez, member of the Institute of Biomedicine of the UB (IBUB), has received an Innovators grant (2023 INNOV 00010), aimed at valorization and transfer projects in more advanced phases, to promote the transfer of a new compound against post-operative pain. This is a new family of dual-action molecules capable of interacting simultaneously with two proteins involved in the pathophysiology of pain, discovered in the context of a long collaboration between Prof. Vázquez’s group and Prof. Enrique J. Cobos, from the University of Granada.

Current pain medications have dose-limiting side effects and are ineffective in more than 50% of patients. Furthermore, in most cases, they act on only one of the multiple targets involved, so they only address one aspect of the complex pathological network involved in pain. The new drug developed by UB researchers simultaneously targets two therapeutic targets.

It should be noted that this project also received a Llavor grant from the 2018 call, which allowed them to develop a trial to finish defining the therapeutic indication of the new drug, and a Product grant from the 2021 call, which allowed them to identify a candidate and evaluate its efficacy in different pain models and, in particular, the lack of the typical side effects of strong analgesics (addiction, tolerance, sedation, constipation). Now, with the help of 84,000 euros, a market study and a business plan will be developed to create a spin off to continue the development of this innovative drug against post-operative pain.

Innovation against two of the most widespread chronic skin diseases

A project to develop an innovative drug against atopic dermatitis and psoriasis – two of the most widespread and neglected chronic inflammatory skin diseases – has also been recognized with a grant from the Innovators category (2023 INNOV 00012). This is a multidisciplinary collaboration of four research teams from the UB: those of the professors of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Concepció Soler and Francisco Ciruela, and those of the professors of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Food Xavier Barril and Rodolfo Lavilla, who is also part of the MCP group.

The innovative strategy is based on blocking TREX2, a gene that is only expressed in keratinocytes – the most abundant cells in the skin – and which is involved in the inflammatory pathogenesis of these diseases. This approach has important advantages over most drugs, which mainly block the action of the immune system, an immunosuppression that causes different side effects, some of them serious. The new drug, which could be administered orally or topically, targets the treatment specifically to the TREX2 gene and skin cells, thus minimizing systemic side effects.

These TREX2 inhibitors developed by UB researchers have obtained promising results in animal models of both diseases. Now, the new grant of 84,000 euros will allow a market study to be carried out and a business plan to be drawn up to promote the licensing of the product and/or the creation of a spin-off to continue the optimization and development of this drug for clinical use in psoriasis, dermatitis, and other potential TREX2-related diseases, such as ichthyosis, a rare skin disease.

The UB is the leader in the ranking of Catalan universities with the largest number of projects selected in the call for Knowledge Industry Grants 2023

The University of Barcelona (UB), through the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG), its technology transfer and innovation office, leads the ranking of Catalan universities with the highest number of projects achieved in the Industrial Industry aid call. Knowledge 2023 of the Department of Research and Universities of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

Specifically, the UB received a total of 1,169,680.53 euros in funding for the development of thirteen innovative projects. The call, promoted by the Agency for the Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR), aims to promote the knowledge generated in the scientific environment so that it can reach the productive fabric.

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