La Jolla Institute Extends 25-Year Partnership with Japanese Pharma

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Corrected 8/01/13, 00:30 am. See below.] The La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology says it has extended its industry-academic collaboration with the California-based subsidiary of Kyowa Hakko Kirin (KHK), the Japanese specialty pharmaceutical company.

Financial terms of the six-year agreement were not disclosed. The collaboration that began in 1988 combines the institute’s expertise in basic research with KHK’s drug discovery and development capabilities to accelerate the commercialization of new treatments. Under their agreement, KHK’s California-based subsidiary gets first rights to discoveries made at the institute in research projects funded by the KHK subsidiary.

For example, a potential new antibody therapy for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease discovered in Carl Ware’s lab at the institute is now in clinical trials under a 2009 agreement with KHK and Sanofi, according to Bonnie Ward, an institute spokeswoman.

[Corrected 8/01/13, 00:30 am to show Rao and Hogan remain with Institute] In another major discovery, scientists in the lab of Michael Croft demonstrated the pivotal role that a protein called the OX40 ligand plays in asthma. MedImmune, an AstraZeneca subsidiary, was granted exclusive rights to explore the potential use of the molecule in developing a biologics asthma drug. Ward says the institute also has close ties with CalciMedica, a San Diego startup focused on developing a variety of small molecule drugs to suppress autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Two faculty members of the institute, Anjana Rao and Patrick Hogan, were co-founders.

Under their agreement with KHK’s California subsidiary, Ward says the institute gets a combination of discretionary research funding as well as funds designated for specific research projects selected by a steering committee that includes KHK and institute leaders.

Most of the institute’s research funding, however, is provided by the National Institutes of Health through research grants. The institute has about 350 scientists and employees.

Discoveries made at the institute are under development to treat a variety of debilitating disorders, including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, Ward said. Several of potential therapies, including a drug that eases immune rejection problems in patients following organ transplantation, are in mid-stage human clinical trials.

In their statement, the institute and KHK describe their 25-year partnership as one of the most-enduring industry-academic collaborations in the world.

“KHK has the kind of long-term commitment that is necessary to take discoveries from the bench, into human clinical studies, and, if successful, into approved drugs,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, the institute’s president and chief scientific officer, in the statement.