29 September 2008

Professor Mark Pepys FRS FMedSci, a leading University College London (UCL) scientist, Head of Medicine at the Hampstead Campus (Royal Free), Director of the UCL Centre for Amyloidosis and Acute Phase Proteins, and Director of Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd, has secured a major grant to develop breakthrough therapeutics in the treatment of transthyretin amyloidosis.

Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd, a spin-out company created by UCL Business and headed by Professor Pepys, has been awarded a grant of £3.89 million in conjunction with UCL to develop a drug to target a protein called transthyretin for the treatment and prevention of hereditary systemic transthyretin amyloidosis, otherwise known as familial amyloid polyneuropathy, and senile cardiac amyloidosis, which is also caused by transthyretin. The company was founded in 2001 with the aim of commercialising the intellectual property and proprietary knowledge emanating from Professor Pepys’s research work at UCL.

Building on the pioneering research conducted by Professor Pepys and his collaborators, the research team will be working on the development of drugs which could offer real hope in the fight against these largely untreatable and usually fatal diseases.

Under the Wellcome Trust’s Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative, UCL and Pentraxin have been tasked with the development of a novel drug, building on the work already carried out by Professor Pepys’s team. The funding will be used to develop the drug to clinical trial stage.

“We are greatly encouraged by the rigorous scientific endorsement of our novel strategy which has been provided by the Wellcome Trust” says Professor Pepys. “Their generous funding will enable our multi-skilled team to make rapid progress with the promising leads and original ideas which we have already created. We hope that the outcome will be an effective treatment for a very significant unmet medical need.”

The award is another resounding endorsement for Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd, which has separate drug development programmes in progress for treatment of systemic amyloidosis, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, myocardial infarction and stroke.

“We are delighted to be able to facilitate the development of this important and much needed research,” says Dr. Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust. “New treatments for amyloid diseases are urgently needed and the group lead by Professor Pepys has an impressive record of achievement in this area”.

Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd
Pentraxin Therapeutics is a UCL spin out company formed in 2001.  It holds all the intellectual property and proprietary knowledge emanating from Professor Pepys’s research at UCL.  Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd is concerned with the research and development of drugs for the treatment of amyloidosis and amyloid-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and type II diabetes, as well as targeting the pathogenic effects of C-reactive protein in cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases.

For further information, visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/medicine/amyloidosis

About The Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is the largest independent charity in the UK and the second largest medical research charity in the world. It funds innovative biomedical research, both in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.

The Wellcome Trust’s £91 million Seeding Drug Discovery initiative aims to assist researchers and companies, small and large, to take forward early-stage drug discovery projects in small-molecule therapeutics. The Wellcome Trust is currently accepting applications for the next round of funding under the Seeding Drug Discovery initiative. Preliminary applications submitted by 9 November 2007 will be shortlisted for consideration by the committee in May 2008.

For further information go to: www.wellcome.ac.uk.

Further Information
For further information contact Dr. Richard Fagan, Director of BioPharm, UCL Business PLC on 020 7679 9000, r.fagan@uclb.com.