Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven, Belgium) announced today that on July 29th, 2010 they entered into a license agreement with Pfizer. The license agreement grants Pfizer exclusive and sublicenseable worldwide rights to further develop and commercialise K.U.Leuven’s compounds with a new mechanism of action for the potential treatment of individuals infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The compounds, named ledgins, have been shown to inhibit the interaction between the viral integrase and the cellular protein LEDGF/p75 and form the basis for a new class of drugs that block HIV without cross-resistance with existing anti-HIV drugs.
K.U.Leuven will provide Pfizer with exclusive access to the compounds developed in its LEDGF-integrase directed drug discovery programme and all related know-how. Pfizer seeks to advance several compound classes with this new mechanism of action in its Sandwich, UK, laboratories. Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will make an upfront and milestone payments to K.U.Leuven based upon the achievement of development, regulatory and sales goals. K.U.Leuven is also eligible to receive royalty payments on net sales of future products discovered or developed under the agreement.
In 2002, the research group of Prof. Zeger Debyser of K.U.Leuven discovered that HIV uses a cellular protein, called LEDGF/p75, for integrating its genetic material into the host. A multidisciplinary drug discovery programme, supported by the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3) of K.U.Leuven Research & Development (LRD), led to the discovery of the first reported highly potent anti-HIV small molecule inhibitors of the interaction between LEDGF/p75 and HIV integrase. Several compound classes with such activity have been identified and developed up to lead stage in a programme combining the expertise of three academic research groups: Molecular Virology of Prof. Z. Debyser and Dr. F. Christ, Biomolecular Modelling of Prof. M. De Maeyer and Dr. A. Voet and Biocrystallography of Prof. S. Strelkov, with the capacity and expertise of CD3 and CISTIM Leuven, Vzw of Dr. P. Chaltin and Dr. A. Marchand.
“We are pleased to partner with Pfizer, whose commitment to advance anti-HIV drugs complements our mission to discover and transfer new technologies and treatments for diseases" says Paul Van Dun, General Manager of LRD. "This license agreement constitutes a milestone for CD3 and demonstrates that CD3, as an investment fund and technology transfer platform for innovative academic drug discovery, can deliver new potential drugs by collaborating with university expert research groups” adds Patrick Chaltin, Managing Director of CD3.
It is estimated that over 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV. In 2008 there were 2.7 million newly infected and 2 million deaths. Although there are already multiple anti-HIV drugs on the market, it remains important to develop new drugs that are well tolerated, safe and easy to administer, especially if they are preferentially directed against novel targets, because HIV is becoming resistant against current treatments.