– Almac Discovery, the independent research driven drug discovery company dedicated to the development of novel and innovative therapeutics, is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr James Reihill to further support the exploration of the role of Deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) in the development of new drugs for major respiratory diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe asthma and cystic fibrosis (CF).
As part of an Innovate UK funded Innovation Scholar award, the appointment will see Dr Reihill, who is currently based at the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), join the Almac Discovery team for a 2-year project. James has extensive multidisciplinary experience in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for chronic lung diseases, including CF, COPD and severe asthma and will bring a wealth of expertise and insight to accelerate Almac Discovery’s research efforts in this field.
The announcement comes just weeks after the company confirmed it had entered into the BREATH (Border and REgions Airways Training Hub) consortium – an ambitious, collaborative research partnership, supported by the EU’s INTERREG VA programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), with a mission to tackle COPD and other airway diseases such as CF. The €8.9 M innovative partnership includes Principal Investigators from Dundalk Institute of Technology, Queen’s University Belfast & University of the West of Scotland, who are sharing complementary resources and expertise to tackle COPD. Almac Discovery’s contribution to the BREATH consortium will focus on identifying roles for DUBs in airway disease using multiple approaches.
As part of the BREATH-collaboration, multiple projects are currently underway focusing on the role of the DUB target class in biological pathways relevant to airway physiology. The BREATH-Almac Discovery partnership aims to provide insight and understanding into the biological mechanisms underpinning aspects of airway disease and identify targets for the development of novel small molecule inhibitors via the Almac Discovery UbiPlex™ platform. It is anticipated that DUB inhibitors will provide powerful new tools for further research and potentially hold therapeutic utility as novel treatments in airway diseases.
COPD alone represents the 3rd leading cause of death worldwide (WHO Global Health Estimates 2021) and has an estimated global prevalence of 10%. According to the British Lung Foundation, pre-COVID, lung disease was the 4th costliest disease across the UK at around £11 billion a year. Innovative new approaches, such as manipulation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system by targeting DUBs, have the potential to reduce airway inflammation and improve lung clearance mechanisms and could be of major clinical importance. An increasing body of work demonstrates deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) to have considerable, yet currently underexploited, therapeutic potential in this area. The application of Almac Discovery’s world-leading DUB-focussed drug discovery platform to this therapeutic area provides an opportunity to help realise this goal.
Commenting on his appointment, Dr Reihill said, “COPD is a debilitating disease which is affecting millions of patients across the world. Evidence shows that DUBs have considerable, yet currently unaddressed, therapeutic potential and I am excited to join the Almac Discovery team to support the advancement of research in this area. The team’s world-leading DUB-focused drug discovery platform, coupled with their expertise, provides novel tools and a real opportunity to help realise the vision of developing new medicines for this unmet medical need.”
Prof. Tim Harrison, VP Drug Discovery at Almac Discovery added: “James has significant expertise in chronic respiratory diseases and his extensive experience will undoubtedly support our existing research in this area as we seek to improve outcomes for patients with such diseases. We are particularly pleased that he joins us at an exciting time as we embark on the collaborative research partnership, BREATH, to tackle COPD alongside investigators from Dundalk Institute of Technology, University of the West of Scotland, and of course Prof Lorraine Martin and James’ own team at QUB.”
Professor Lorraine Martin, School of Pharmacy at QUB, commented “We are delighted that Almac Discovery has joined the BREATH consortium to help advance this pioneering cross-border research project. The team has an excellent track record of delivering successful clinical programmes and specifically, their expertise with DUB targeting will be crucial in helping us better understand and alleviate the impact of COPD for patients across the world.”
Recognising the unique therapeutic potential of the ubiquitin-proteasome system, Almac Discovery developed a purpose-built drug discovery platform (UbiPlex™) for the identification and optimisation of DUB inhibitors. The power and utility of Ubi-Plex® has now been illustrated by the identification of inhibitors of multiple DUB targets which have been successfully used to generate Proof of Concept efficacy data in disease-relevant pre-clinical models. The company has signed four significant partnership and collaboration agreements during the past five years in support of its principal objectives to drive forward a dedicated effort in the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of disease, and to make a real and lasting contribution towards the advancement of human health.
Earlier this year, Almac Discovery announced a related industrial-academic partnership in oncology with the appointment of Professor Dan Longley to further support the exploration of the role of DUBs in the development and progression of colorectal cancer.