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Boehringer Ingelheim inks research pact with Harvard scientists to discover novel treatments for severe fibrotic diseases

Ingelheim, Germany
Thursday, June 09, 2016, 12:00 Hrs  [IST]

Boehringer Ingelheim has established a research collaboration with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s - Harvard Fibrosis Network to discover new ways of treating fibrotic diseases such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), chronic kidney disease (CKD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The Harvard Fibrosis Network unites Harvard investigators in several of the University’s schools and at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue and is typically associated with irreversible injury, scarring and inflammation of organs. The biology and mechanisms of progression of fibrotic diseases are poorly understood. The diseases can affect many organs, including liver, bone marrow, lung, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, skin, eye, and the heart, which may lead eventually to organ failure, severe disability and even death. They are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Currently, treatments for fibrotic diseases are limited and new approaches are eagerly awaited by patients and physicians. Deeper insights into the common causes of fibrotic diseases are consequently urgently needed to enable the discovery of new therapeutic approaches and better treatments.
 
In collaboration with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Harvard Fibrosis Network, Boehringer Ingelheim is initially sponsoring three projects to explore novel pathways and molecular targets for the treatment of IPF, CKD and NASH. Through the research collaboration, the project teams will also have access to the chemical compound collection and siRNA library at the ICCB-Longwood screening facility and will be supported by Shannan Ho Sui’s bioinformatics team at the Harvard Chan Bioinformatics Core at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s Center for Health Bioinformatics to discover new drivers of fibrosis.

Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to investigating unprecedented underlying pathophysiological mechanisms to enable the discovery of new treatments for diseases with high unmet medical need. Consequently a fibrosis cluster has been established in Discovery Research to support the identification of new targets for CardioMetabolic Diseases and Immunology and Respiratory Diseases. This research has already enabled the development of nintedanib (Ofev), a compound intended for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which led to approval in the US, EU and other countries and is currently also being studied in systemic sclerosis with interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD) in a phase III clinical trial (SENSCIS).

“We are very excited about joining forces with this renowned group of fibrosis researchers,” said Clive R. Wood, Ph.D., senior corporate vice president discovery research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “We strongly believe that the integration of deep medical and preclinical research expertise across multiple fibrotic disorders is centrally important for the discovery of new treatments for patients”. Furthermore, Wood emphasized, “the Harvard Fibrosis Network and Boehringer Ingelheim’s fibrosis cluster team will work closely together to translate new findings and chemical starting points into drug discovery programs at Boehringer Ingelheim.”

Joseph V. Bonventre, MD/Ph.D., executive committee member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and Chief of the Renal Unit and Director of the Bioengineering Division at Brigham and Women's Hospital   added, “The breadth and depth of this collaborative effort is yet another reminder of Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s power as both a convener and a driver of research and treatment development. HSCI has brought together researchers across the Harvard biomedical ecosystem who are working in multiple organ systems with a leading pharmaceutical company with the goal of bringing new therapeutic approaches to a problem which is pervasive in medicine.”

All research projects will be sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim for an initial period of three years with additional projects added upon selection by the joint steering committee.  Further details of the agreement are not disclosed.

The Harvard Stem Cell Institue brings together more than 1,000 scientists in the schools and affiliated hospitals of Harvard, to fund novel research, and implement new collaborative academic and industrial models, all focused on advancing basic understanding of human development and disease, and on using stem cell science to develop cures and treatments for a wide range of human diseases and conditions.

The Harvard Fibrosis Network is a scientific collaborative of distinguished Harvard researchers led by Joseph Bonventre, Executive Committee member of Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and Chief of the Renal Unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates globally through 145 affiliates and a total of some 47,500 employees.

 

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