Researchers at the University of Birmingham have joined forces with their counterparts at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH) to develop promising drug candidates for anti-Tuberculosis therapy and initiate a drug discovery effort.

In order further to develop the project and to make more effective drugs available to TB patients, particularly those with drug-resistant strains of the disease, the discovery will now be progressed by a GIBH spinout company in China called Legion Pharma (Guangzhou).

University of Birmingham Enterprise CEO Dr James Wilkie, whose team of IP specialists captured the joint IP around the project, commented: “This is the first jointly owned patent we’ve filed with a Chinese institution, and we’ve been delighted with the smoothness of the collaboration to-date, and with the progressing development on compounds that could help fight disease and improve health for millions of people, particularly in communities most affected by drug-resistant tuberculosis.” 

Teams based in Britain and China used innovative data sharing technology – developed by the University of Birmingham – to help them to work faster and more effectively whilst separated by thousands of kilometres.

One of the most important online tools they used is the University of Birmingham’s BEAR DataShare facility. This allows the team to share project-related data securely across the world – even by mobile phone, using a specially developed app.

The drug discovery effort was led by Professor John S. Fossey and Dr Luke Alderwick, Director of the Birmingham Drug Discovery Facility – from the University’s Schools of Chemistry and Biosciences. At GIBH, the efforts have been headed by Dr Cleopatra Neagoie, chemistry team leader and Micky Tortorella, Director of the Drug Discovery Pipeline.

Professor John S. Fossey commented: “We designed and synthesised the first generation of molecules in Birmingham and a team of expert GIBH researchers synthesised and optimised the molecules. Thanks to a wider team involving our postgraduate students, we developed a number of compounds, which have great promise as therapeutic treatments.

“Working online has been essential for us – allowing us smoothly to share project data across borders – contributing greatly to the success and sustainability of our partnership. We look forward to a new chapter in drug development as GIBH’s spinout company progresses our discoveries along the translational journey to the clinic.”

Dr Luke Alderwick, director of the University of Birmingham Drug Discovery Facility added: “The University of Birmingham has invested significant funds into the Drug Discovery Facility, and our cutting-edge screening technology has enabled multidisciplinary collaboration between Biosciences and Chemistry that now reaches out to our partners in China. This project perfectly exemplifies how research teams can work effectively across borders and is a trail-blazer for future drug discovery initiatives that will follow”.

Drug-resistant TB is an unmet medical need in China and this joint project is very important to the citizens of China. Great things are on the way and we are delighted that our research is now at the point where we can take it to the next level of development,” commented Micky Tortorella.

GIBH is a high-profile research institute, run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, and the People’s Government of Guangzhou Municipality. Research areas include stem cell and regenerative medicine, chemical biology, public health, immunology and infectious diseases.

The University of Birmingham has a long-standing relationship with the city of Guangzhou, which is also the sister city of Birmingham itself. The University opened its Guangzhou Centre in 2011 and its China Institute has forged close links with partners in the city and beyond.

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