Vanderbilt University announced recently an extension of their partnership with the Japanese-based Ono Pharmaceutical Company through November 2023. Vanderbilt has been working with Ono since 2015, and this is the fourth extension of their contract.

“Such a successful cooperative effort is never guaranteed, so it is great to be able to continue and extend what has been Vanderbilt’s longest ongoing drug discovery collaboration with Ono,” said Thomas Utley, senior licensing officer at the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization; adding that effort were “only possible because of the great working relationship that Ono brings to the table.”

Ono is a research and development-oriented pharmaceutical company “that is committed to creating innovative medicines in specific areas.”

Vanderbilt’s partnership with Ono is jointly led by the university’s Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (WCNDD) director Craig Lindsley, William K. Warren a Jr. Chair in Medicine and Professor at the University; Jerod Denton a professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology and director of ion channel pharmacology at the WCNDD; and Jerri Rook, a research associate professor of pharmacology and director of behavioral pharmacology at the WCNDD.

At the beginning of the partnership between Vanderbilt and Ono, Lendsley’s group focused on medicinal chemistry and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, Denton’s group assayed compounds and performed patch-clamp electrophysiology, and the Rook lab evaluated compounds in preclinical models.

The school’s collaboration with the company is to focus on an under-explored family of ion channels and transporters, the statement said, which Ono and WCNDD had first developed as a “variety of tests and then tool compounds to validate how altering these ion channels’ preclinical models affects a variety of central nervous system conditions.”

The abstract of a paper discussing the “modulation of ion permeation by drugs and protein interactions” explains:

The fundamental properties of ion channels assure their selectivity for a particular ion, its rapid permeation through a central pore and that such electrical activity is modulated by factors that control the opening and closing (gating) of the channel. All cell types possess ion channels and their regulated flux of ions across the membrane play critical roles in all steps of life. An ion channel does not act alone to control cell excitability but rather forms part of larger protein complexes. The identification of protein interaction partners of ion channels and their influence on both the fundamental biophysical properties of the channel and its expression in the membrane are revealing the many ways in which electrical activity may be regulated.

At Vanderbilt, the teams are working to discover clinical candidates for potential new therapeutics.

Denton added, “The ion channels we’re working on with Ono are considered some of the toughest drug targets out there. By leveraging the deep expertise and resources afforded by this collaboration, we’ve developed pre-clinical tool compounds of which most ion channel pharmacologists can only dream.”

“The collaboration with Ono has been terrific at every possible level,” Lindsley said. “Together, we are creating new compounds that are deciphering the roles and therapeutic potential of a unique class of ion channels, and we now have our sights on moving these into clinical development.”

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Morgan Nicole Veysey is a reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Vanderbilt University Medical Center” by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.