European Lead Factory results make a real impact on IMI stakeholders

06 October 2016

In September this year, the European Lead Factory (ELF) had the good fortune to highlight its achievements to the advisory groups of Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), ELF’s principal funding organisation.

On 20 September, with the aid of presentations from three highly enthusiastic external ELF users, ELF’s Head of Screening Ton Rijnders addressed the IMI States Representatives Group (SRG) – a body comprising representatives from the IMI’s EU Member States and associated countries.

Dr Richard Mead of the University of Sheffield (UK) described how screening the European Lead Factory compound library had delivered eight ‘Qualified Hit List’ (QHL) compounds and over 100 analogues that could be promising in the treatment of Motor Neurone Disease / Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (MND / ALS) – a neurodegenerative condition that normally results in death within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis. In addition to delivering a series of compounds that are likely to penetrate the central nervous system, offering a genuine starting point for drug discovery, Dr Mead said that working with ELF had provided new insights into the mechanisms of MND / ALS and stimulated new research collaborations.

Dr Margit Mahlapuu of the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) described ELF’s role in helping her group to identify 49 QHL compounds and >100 analogues that target a novel kinase involved in Type 2 Diabetes, potentially providing new treatment strategies for the disease. She also reported that the successful results of working with ELF had led to new pharmacological tools and funding for further ‘mode-of-action’ studies, the creation of a spin-out company, and new partnering opportunities.

Rounding off these testimonials, Dr Joost Uitdehaag of the Netherlands Translational Research Centre (NTRC), a privately owned drug discovery SME based in Oss (The Netherlands), described his company’s work on a drugs for cancer immunotherapy that target IDO1 – an intracellular enzyme that is upregulated in cancer cells to prevent immune attack.

All three researchers confirmed the superior performance of the ELF drug discovery platform. In fact, all of them had previously performed screens using medium-sized public or in-house compound collections, which failed to deliver attractive hits.

Following their testimonial presentations, ELF Target Call Director Dr Jon de Vlieger provided further details of ELF’s mission and vision. Dr Dimitrios Tzalis, ELF Head of Chemistry and CEO of contract research company Taros Chemicals, then described how ELF was helping his company to bridge the ‘Valley of Death’ between scientific discovery and patient benefitting drugs, and the role that SMEs can play in the process.

On 30 September, Ton Rijnders gave an abridged version of these presentations to the IMI Scientific Committee, which provides strategic science-based advice to the IMI Governing Board.

“We are extremely pleased that IMI gave us this double opportunity to highlight in significant detail what the European Lead Factory has been able to achieve over the past three-and-a-half years,” said Ton.

“The European Lead Factory is in many ways one of IMI’s flagship projects, but when we first initiated it, no one had any idea of how successful it would turn out to be. The results have already exceeded all expectations,” commented IMI Executive Director Dr Pierre Meulien.

Photo from left to right:
Dr Richard Mead (University of Sheffield), Dr Margit Mahlapuu (University of Gothenburg), Dr Joost Uitdehaag (Netherlands Translational Research Centre).