Eisai-UCL - a long term strategic partnership

Neurodegenerative diseases present one of the major medical, scientific, societal, and financial challenges of our time. In the UK, the number of people currently affected is close to 1 million and this is expected to double in the next 20 years. To address this urgent need for effective treatments, the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai has partnered with University College London (UCL), a world-leader in dementia research and the central hub of the new £250 million UK Dementia Research Institute.

The collaboration encompasses several early stage research projects aiming to identify and validate novel drug targets across key processes involved in neurodegeneration. Eisai benefits from UCL’s world-class research into the mechanisms underpinning neurodegenerative diseases and expertise in clinical translation and in return contributes its drug discovery experience and state-of-the-art resources.

This strategic partnership, agreed in 2012, is a central part of Eisai’s ‘Open Innovation’ strategy to accelerate the development of new, innovative therapies by sharing knowledge and resources with academic partners. Eisai received the UCL Enterprise Corporate Partner of the Year award in 2014 in recognition of their commitment to the partnership, which builds upon a long history of collaboration between the two organisations.

Importantly, the collaboration is generating results. Researchers are publishing their findings and presenting them to a wider scientific audience at international conferences. Eisai makes milestone payments to UCL when projects reach significant objectives, the first of which has already been completed. The university will also receive royalties from any products brought to market as a result of the collaboration.

A unique partnership model ensures both parties are equally represented at every level. Overseeing the entire collaboration is a joint committee co-chaired by Professor Alan Thompson (UCL) and Dr. Teiji Kimura (Eisai). A Therapeutic Innovation Group (TIG) comprised of senior scientists from both parties is responsible for the operational management of the collaboration, and individual projects are carried out by teams of researchers from both organisations co-led by project leaders from each party. Project teams are supported by a group of TIG scientists (funded by Eisai but employed by UCL) who work across projects and move between UCL laboratories and Eisai’s UK-based Neurology Innovation Centre as appropriate. Eisai’s UK team also works closely with affiliate sites in the USA and Japan to apply specialist knowledge and technologies to support the collaborative projects.