Collaboration will focus on Alzheimer disease target O-GlcNAcase.

Marine biotechnology firm Aquapharm Biodiscovery is teaming up with researchers at the U.K.’s University of Dundee to discover new therapeutics for Alzheimer disease derived from natural marine products. The collaborators will mine Aquapharm’s collection of marine-derived compounds and scaffolds in the hunt for potential modulators of O-GlcNAcase, which Aquapharm claims is a well-characterized Alzheimer’s target that has been difficult to address using conventional small molecule libraries.

The work will combine the firm’s marine products expertise with that of Daan van Aalten, Ph.D., professor of biological chemistry at the university. Dr. van Aalten specializes in studying the structural aspects and mechanisms of protein-carbohydrate interactions for the design of new research tools and chemotherapeutics. Under terms of the agreement Aquapharm will fund research at Dr. van Aalten’s laboratories and provide access to its culture collection of marine microorganisms for mining and screening. The Dundee partners will provide knowledge transfer of O-GlcNAcase high-throughput screens to Aquapharm, so the company can conduct its own screening work alongside the academic program.

Aquapharm CEO, Simon Best, says the collaboration represents his firm’s first foray into the CNS disorders field. “Aquapharm’s compound collections may provide solutions for difficult targets that fail to progress with traditional medicinal chemistry/high-throughput screening,” Dr. van Aalten adds. “This is an exciting knowledge transfer collaboration between Aquapharm and Dundee University that gives us access to a very underexplored area of chemical space.”

Aquapharm’s in-house pipeline is focused on the discovery and development of antibiotics to treat both community- and hospital-acquired Gram negative and Gram positive infections, and to isolate novel marine natural products for pharmaceutical applications. The firm’s preclinical pipeline is headed by a lead anti-Gram positive candidate.

In July Aquapharm signed a research agreement with Albany Molecular Research focused on identifying novel drug-like compounds and scaffolds with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity. The firm also has ongoing collaborations and commercial license agreements in place with partners including Dr. Reddy’s and specialty chemicals company Croda International.

Aquapharm is based at the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology in Oban, Scotland. The Centre is also home to GlycoMar, a marine biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of  novel glycobiology compounds including polysaccharides and glycosaminoglycans derived from a wide range of marine invertebrates and microalgae.

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