The Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry enter into extended drug discovery collaboration

July 08, 2015

The Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery (JHDD) program, created with the mission of identifying novel drug targets arising from Johns Hopkins faculty research and translating them into new therapeutics, and the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, The Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB Prague) have entered into a five-year drug discovery research agreement to develop small-molecule and peptide drugs for a range of therapeutic areas including neurological diseases, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders.

The IOCB Prague, Czech Republic, performs fundamental research in organic chemistry, biochemistry and related disciplines oriented, in part, to medicinal applications. Among others, the HIV therapy blockbuster Tenofovir TM originated at IOCB Prague. The JHDD at Johns Hopkins represents a Pharma-experienced team of drug discovery scientists tasked with identifying novel drug targets arising from Johns Hopkins faculty research and translating them into new small molecule drug therapies. The collaboration brings together the significant expertise and experience in medicinal and peptide chemistry at IOCB Prague with the biological target ideas, screening assays, animal pharmacology, drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics expertise at JHDD.

"The complicated path that leads to drug discovery requires extensive research and teamwork," says Barbara Slusher, Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery Program and a professor of neurology, psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "We have made great strides in the area of drug discovery at Johns Hopkins, but our internal chemistry capacity has been a bottleneck. This new partnership providing collaboration with the network of over 600 chemistry experts at IOCB will significantly expand and build upon our research efforts."

"While millions of patients are desperately waiting for development of needed drugs, it is a smart combination of complementary expertise that is essential to make the drug discovery process effective," says Zdenek Hostomsky, Ph.D., director of the IOCB Prague. "The chemistry of peptides and small molecules including nucleosides, helicenes and steroids has been studied at IOCB Prague for decades. Every year, the institute produces more than 4,000 unique molecules whose biologic activity is tested. The collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery program will greatly increase our capacity to identify and develop novel drug candidates, which might otherwise remain undiscovered."

The collaboration will operate as part of the John Hopkins Drug Discovery Program, launched in 2009 as part of the Brain Science Institute. This team represents the largest integrated drug discovery group on campus. Earlier this year, the program was tasked with expanding beyond the Brain Science Institute to aide in the development of discoveries in all therapeutic areas at Johns Hopkins. It was this expansion that led the team to seek this strategic collaboration with IOCB Prague chemistry.

This new, formal collaboration is an extension of an existing productive relationship between Dr. Slusher and the IOCB Prague chemists. The two institutions have been working together on various projects for several years and have filed multiple joint patents.
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Johns Hopkins Medicine

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