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Vanderbilt, Boehringer Ingelheim announce partnership to develop therapies for psychiatric disorders

by Jan. 3, 2019, 1:14 PM

Boehringer Ingelheim and Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD) today announced two new global agreements to investigate, develop and commercialize novel small molecules targeting two distinct G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) known to engage in the modulation of certain brain circuitries, which are altered in neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia.

“By joining forces with Vanderbilt University, one of the world’s leading groups integrating basic neuroscience and new translational approaches in neuropsychiatric conditions, Boehringer Ingelheim will strengthen and expand efforts to bring new treatments to patients,” said Bernd Sommer, Ph.D., Global Head CNS Disease Research, Boehringer Ingelheim. “Our colleagues in VCNDD share our strategic vision for drug discovery to regulate maladaptive brain circuitry as the key to alleviate symptoms in neuropsychiatric conditions and bring relief to patients suffering from these debilitating disorders.”

Maladaptive brain circuits are the neurobiological basis of major symptoms in many mental disorders. These symptoms may include memory, concentration and decision-making difficulties as well as social withdrawal, lack of motivation or inability to experience pleasure. Because GPCRs have specific roles in the regulation and modulation of brain circuit functions, these proteins are promising targets for drugs designed to relieve such symptoms. VCNDD has pioneered GPCRs research, yielding a better understanding of their roles in brain modulation.

“We are delighted to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim in developing new treatments for schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders,” said P. Jeffrey Conn, VCNDD director. “Boehringer Ingelheim is an industry leader that shares our passion for advancing new therapeutic strategies that could dramatically improve the standard of care for individuals suffering from major mental illness. Through this partnership, we are able to pursue new approaches for correcting deficits in brain circuits that may allow treatment of debilitating symptoms that are not responsive to available medicines.”

Craig W. Lindsley, VCNDD’s director of medicinal chemistry, echoed enthusiasm for the partnership. “The programs partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim represent the culmination of years of basic and translational science within our center and highlight the key role academic drug discovery centers can have on the future of human mental health,” he said.

These new industry-academic collaborations may be the first to focus on the two GPCR targets with a goal to address the unmet medical needs for treatments of cognitive and negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia. The partnership also will enhance the educational goals of VCNDD to train doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows and develop new tools to advance neuroscience knowledge. Further details of the agreement are not disclosed. The present agreements to identify novel therapies for the treatment of neurological conditions are the fifth and sixth agreements between Boehringer Ingelheim and Vanderbilt University, adding to previous agreements focused on the identification of novel therapies for cancer.

About Neuropsychiatric Disorders
Brain or neurological conditions that cause psychiatric symptoms are referred to as neuropsychiatric disorders. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that neuropsychiatric disorders are the third leading cause of years lived with disability (DALY). Moreover, these disorders include mental and behavioral conditions such as depression, anxiety, drug- and alcohol-use disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other illnesses that together account for 7.4 percent of total global DALYs.

About Boehringer Ingelheim
Improving the health and quality of life of patients is the goal of the research-driven pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date. The company, therefore, concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives. In animal health, Boehringer Ingelheim stands for advanced prevention.

Family-owned since it was established in 1885, Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s top 20 companies. Some 50,000 employees create value through innovation daily for the three business areas: human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceuticals. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of over 18 billion euros. R&D expenditure, exceeding three billion euros, corresponded to 17 percent of net sales.

As a family-owned company, Boehringer Ingelheim plans in generations and focuses on long-term success, rather than short-term profit. The company, therefore, aims at organic growth from its own resources with simultaneous openness to partnerships and strategic alliances in research. In everything it does, Boehringer Ingelheim naturally adopts responsibility towards mankind and the environment.

About Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery
The Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery extends traditional academic pursuits in basic science to take the most exciting advances in our understanding of human disease and drug targets to a point where these breakthroughs can directly impact patient care. By incorporating the highest level of drug discovery into academic research, VCNDD propels scientific breakthroughs beyond the lab and toward the development of patentable and marketable drugs suited for clinical studies. The center is staffed by dozens of scientists, most of whom bring industry experience to this collaborative, academic setting. Since 2007, VCNDD has made significant progress in finding possible treatments for multiple brain disorders, such as, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, autistic spectrum disorders, dystonia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. VCNDD research has been funded publicly by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and privately by a number of partners.

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