UCB has announced that it has launched a third collaborative research project with Harvard that builds upon the innovative Research Alliance they both signed in 2011.
The third research project named ‘Mining the Human Microbiome” will be headed by Christophe Benoist, M.D., Ph.D., Dennis Kasper, M.D., and Diane Mathis, Ph.D., all Professors in the Division of Immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School.
The team will be studying the human microbiome in the intestine, classifying new species in studying their impact on the immune system in order to identify new drugs for preventing or treating immunological diseases.
UCB will provide up to $4.5 million over three years to fund the project.
A microbiome is the totality of microbes, their genetic elements and environmental interactions in a particular environment. Adult humans contain, on average, some 100 trillion bacteria in their intestines alone.
These bacteria are believed to be central to their host’s well-being while heavily influencing the immune system.
The Harvard investigators plan to systematically mine the human microbiome to look for new immunomodulatory molecules in the intestine with potential therapeutic applications.
In order to do so, their labs have designed an interdisciplinary project using recent technological advances in next generation sequencing, whole-genome and single molecule transcript profiling and polychromatic flow cytometry.
“We hope this project will fundamentally shift the paradigm of drug development for immunological diseases, exploiting naturally occurring molecules evolutionarily designed to thwart or harness the immune system,” said the Harvard investigators.
“If found, these molecules would be of enormous potential for probing immune system function, therapeutic application and as a preventative therapy.”
“We are pleased to enter into this, our third innovative collaboration with UCB, which once again couples leaders in academia and industry to drive translation and advance frontier research from the lab to the clinic,” said Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard’s Chief Technology Development Officer and head of its Office of Technology Development.
Kohlberg continued, "Harvard's collaboration with UCB is a model of how universities can work with industry to advance the progress of medicine and serve the public interest, which is fundamental to Harvard’s core mission".
“This is the third collaboration we have initiated with Harvard in the last 18 months. Our continued alliance with this renowned institution is testimony to our belief in Harvard’s excellence in scientific research and in the strength of our open innovation model,” said Ismail Kola, President of UCB NewMedicines, UCB’s research and early development division.
Kola continued, “Microbiome is one of modern science’s most exciting fields of research and we are confident that this new collaboration will benefit patients by enabling us to meet unmet health care needs in immunology.”