MDA-supported biotechnology company Summit PLC has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) for continued development of utrophin modulators to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and possibly Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD).
Laboratory studies have suggested that increasing levels of the utrophin protein in muscles may be therapeutic in DMD and/or BMD. Utrophin closely resembles the dystrophin protein, which is absent in DMD and reduced in BMD.
Summit, located in Abingdon, United Kingdom, made the announcement about its new strategic alliance in a Nov. 25, 2013, press release.
"We're very excited about this strategic alliance between Summit and Oxford," said Jane Larkindale, MDA's vice president of research. "We've been supporting the development of drugs that increase utrophin levels or activity for some time now, and the investment appears to have been a good choice. We hope a planned phase 1b study of a utrophin modulator in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy shows encouraging results."
Summit CEO Glyn Edwards said, "This strategic alliance secures Summit's position as the world leader in the development of utrophin-based therapies for the treatment of DMD and enhances our opportunity of generating effective treatments for this devastating disease."
In late 2011, Summit received a $750,000 grant from MDA for development and testing of SMT C1100, its lead utrophin modulator. Earlier this month, Summit received approval from regulatory authorities in the UK to test SMT C1100 in boys with DMD.
Summit to acquire rights to Oxford drugs, technology
As part of this new alliance, Summit will acquire exclusive commercial rights to a pipeline of new, early-stage utrophin modulators and to core biological screening technology developed at Oxford. Summit will also have an exclusive option over intellectual property generated from a research collaboration with laboratories at Oxford.
The new utrophin drugs and screening technology have been developed at the University of Oxford by research teams led by MDA grantee Kay Davies, who has received MDA support for utrophin development for several years. Most recently, Davies received a 2012 grant and a 2013 grant to screen for drugs that can increase levels or activity of the utrophin protein.