BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - The Dutch company Crucell NV, of Leiden, entered into a research collaboration with Utrecht University Medical Center (UMC Utrecht) for the discovery of drug targets, therapeutic human antibodies and vaccines for the treatment of Type II diabetes mellitus.

Crucell is interested in exploiting a key discovery made recently by researchers at UMC Utrecht. They found that the self-aggregation of a protein called human islet amyloid polypeptide (hIAPP) is associated with the destruction of insulin-producing cells and hence the onset and progression of Type II diabetes. Finding a mechanism for preventing the formation of these hIAPP aggregates, or eliminating them, could thus prove to be an effective way of treating the disease.

The period and the financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed, but the agreement will give Crucell sole ownership of the intellectual property based on UMC Utrecht's discovery. In order to develop therapeutic applications of it, Crucell will use its discovery engine, Mabstract, to find targets and develop human antibodies, as well as its PER.C6-based cell line technology to develop vaccines for impeding hIAPP aggregation.

The resulting antibodies and vaccines will be tested in a transgenic mouse model developed by UMC Utrecht to establish whether they are capable of preventing and/or eliminating the aggregation of hIAPP and thus constitute a potential treatment. According to the head of the research team at UMC Utrecht's Department of Clinical Endocrinology, Jo Hvppener, antibody and vaccination strategies involving a similar protein are now being developed for Alzheimer's disease, supporting the validity of this approach in diabetes.

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