Biogen Idec and the University of Edinburgh have agreed to a three-year collaboration in which they plan to study multiple sclerosis (MS) and motor neuron disease, then identify drug compounds that could potentially be used as treatments.

The company will fund the collaboration, both partners said in a statement, though the amount of funding was undisclosed. The collaboration is designed to marry the biotech giant’s drug discovery and development expertise with the university’s know-how in translational medicine, as well as in neuroscience, stem cell research, and regeneration.

Biogen Idec markets several MS drugs, including Tysabri® (natalizumab), indicated for relapsing forms of MS in the U.S. and relapsing-remitting MS in the EU; and Avonex®, a drug indicated for relapsing forms of MS to slow its progression of disability and reduce relapses. Avonex is also approved for patients who have their first clinical MS attack and have brain MRI scans consistent with those of MS.

Biogen Idec also has a license from Acorda Therapeutics to develop and commercialize outside the U.S. Fampyra® (prolonged-release fampridine tablets), for improving walking in adult MS patients with walking disabilities.

The collaboration will join Biogen Idec’s investigators with researchers and clinicians based at Edinburgh BioQuarter, Scotland’s anchor biopharma campus, which includes the university. The BioQuarter is already the site of university research collaborations with other drug developers, including a deal with Galapagos to test new drug compounds; a partnership of at least two years with Galecto Biotech to develop the company’s Galectin-3 inhibitors as a treatment for fibrosis; and an effort with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia team to develop treatments for acute pancreatitis.

In the GSK deal, the university receives potential payments from GSK tied to research milestones, and royalties on sales from any product successfully commercialized through the collaboration. 

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