On 11 June 2015, UniQuest announced that it entered into an R&D and license agreement with Janssen Cilag, (Janssen) to identify, develop and commercialise small molecule modulators of a biological target for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis.

Under the agreement, UniQuest and The University of Queensland will be responsible for carrying out the three year drug discovery program aimed at identifying and optimising novel small molecule modulators of the target in collaboration with Janssen immunology scientists.

The agreement terms provide Janssen with an exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise the drug candidates. UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss warmly welcomed the collaboration.

“We are delighted with this small molecule drug discovery collaboration with Janssen. UQ is proud of its research excellence and recognizes the importance of collaborations with industry to translate into future medicines for patients.

“This is the third major R&D collaboration between UQ/UniQuest and Janssen and follows agreements with the Dendright technology for rheumatoid arthritis and the spider venom project to identify peptides as potential treatments for pain. We look forward to further opportunities to collaborate together,” Dr Moss said.

Professor Matt Brown and researchers at UQ’s Diamantina Institute will identify small molecule candidates using their assay and biological models. The resulting hit molecules will be optimised for potency and selectivity using medicinal chemistry and disease models developed at UQ. UniQuest and UQ will project manage the project from hit identification through to lead optimisation.

The deal was led at UniQuest by Dr Mark Ashton, Senior Director of Commercial Engagement – Health, with support from Dr Craig Belcher, UniQuest’s Senior Director of Industry Engagement.

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