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Signalling our commitment to partnership

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Florence Lebon, Discovery Chemistry, New Medicines
At UCB we are committed to working with the best scientists in the world to improve the lives of patients. That is why we have been collaborating with Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Professor Brian Kobilka, and his team. Together, we have been working to address unmet medical need in neuroscience by deepening our understanding of signalling molecules.

Professor Kobilka received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012 for his work on G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are the largest family of signalling proteins in the human genome. They are involved in virtually all physiological processes and represent the single largest target class for medicines.

Professor Kobilka is also the founder of ConfometRx, a company with unique expertise in GPCRs structural biology. UCB’s partnership with ConfometRx began in 2012 when we sealed a collaboration designed to leverage our combined expertise in structural biology and drug development.

Along with Professor Kobilka, his colleagues and several UCB researchers, I am very proud to be a co-author of a new paper describing the 3D structure of a key signalling protein.

The new paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals the crystal structure of a GPCR known as the adenosine A2A receptor (A2AR). This receptor has been identified as a potential target for the development of new treatments for Parkinson’s disease. By studying the structure of this receptor, we observed an area which could be exploited to further develop transformational molecules (medicines).

Separately, our teams have also been working together on the crystal structure of another GPCR to further inform the design of novel drug candidates.

A true collaboration
Working with a Nobel laureate is very rewarding. The ConfometRx team are at the top of their field and the opportunity for our multidisciplinary, multi-site group of researchers to regularly engage with them was a fantastic learning opportunity.

Perhaps most gratifying was the way we worked together. This was a true partnership. Rather than simply seeing UCB as a sponsor, Prof Kobilka’s team were open to regular exchanges of ideas and in-depth discussion of results. We are peers. It is a pleasure to work with a team that are both truly excellent and exceptionally humble. This is the real measure of their greatness.

Building bridges between academia and industry is essential to translating basic knowledge into applied science. By collaborating with some of the best scientific minds in the world, UCB continues to work towards new therapies that patients need.

Scientific team members: Martyn Wooda , Tom Ceskab , Zara A. Sandsc , Joel Mercierc , Florence Lebonc
aDiscovery Biology, New Medicines. bDepartment of Structural Biology, New Medicines. c Discovery Chemistry, New Medicines.

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