Universidad de Santiago de Compostela
The Joint R&D Unit formed by the partnership between Esteve and the University of Santiago de Compostela combines the wide experience of Esteve, a leading pharmaceutical company in Spain, with the high-quality applied research carried out by the BioFarma group and the high capacity of its drug screening platform located in the Centre for Research in Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases (CIMUS).
This is a new association, which represents a qualitative leap from a collaboration of more than ten years to a public-private partnership created with the aim of co-developing new drugs to treat chronic pain. This has been possible thanks to the creation of the status of Joint R&D Units by the Xunta de Galicia, through the Galician Innovation Agency, thus confirming the commitment of the agency to open innovation and the effective transfer of knowledge.
Chronic Pain, a public health problem
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) and the European Federation of the IASP Chapters (EFIC) emphasize that although acute pain is considered a symptom of illness or injury, chronic and recurrent pain is a specific disease or “pain syndrome”. Chronic pain is thus one of the major current public health problems, because of its worldwide prevalence and the economic, social and psychological costs involved. Global prevalence rates of 20% (1 in 5 adults suffer chronic pain) and an annual incidence of 10% (1 in 10 adults are diagnosed each year with chronic pain) have been estimated.
The USC BioFarma group and Esteve have collaborated since 2004 on the implementation of drug discovery programmes and have participated as partners in international projects. This new alliance consolidates and boosts the common aims of both groups with a strategic union that goes beyond the simple provision of services. The Esteve-USC Joint Unit aims to use the expertise of both sides to co-develop new studies and trials in the field of pain research. It has an initial budget of 3 million euros, contributed by Esteve, the USC and the Xunta de Galicia through GAIN.
One aim: to optimize the R&D processes
The Joint Unit aims to optimize R&D processes in Pharmacology to ensure effective transfer of knowledge to society. Its strategy focuses on the discovery and development of new molecules that act on more than one mechanism of action and that increase the clinical efficacy and tolerability of current treatments for chronic pain.
With an initial work horizon of three years, it is expected to reduce delays in obtaining results and help bring to the market a new generation of analgesic medications with several potential benefits over existing drugs: to cover different types of pain, to combine complementary mechanisms of action and to yield greater efficiency, safety and results.
Drug discovery is a complex and expensive process involving a wide range of scientific disciplines. Basic research is usually generated in the public sphere and development of new medicines in the private sector. Knowledge must be shared to enable results to be reached faster. Pooling resources, facilities, infrastructures, up-to-date technological equipment and a highly qualified human team results in a work capacity that would be difficult for each group to achieve by themselves.
Economic, scientific, technological, social and health impact
The new Esteve-USC Joint Unit expects to optimize research processes to achieve high economic, scientific, technological, social and health impacts. Its core values include the following:
- Consolidation of a model R&D network in which excellence is the hallmark of the strategy used to compete at the highest scientific and technological level.
- Generation of strong economic, technological, scientific, social and health impacts, through the creation of highly qualified employment, providing new solutions to a serious public health problem such as chronic pain and the development of innovative predictive technologies based on biomarkers.
- Promotion of the scientific vocation of young researchers.
- Addition of talent to accelerate research results.
- Generation of multidisciplinary biomedical knowledge, focused on novel mechanisms of action, to enable identification of new active molecules within the field of pain.
- Promotion of open innovation and co-development, sharing knowledge to obtain more effective research and faster results.
Extensive experience in knowledge transfer
The USC research Group BioFarma, coordinated by Dr Mabel Loza, has extensive experience in knowledge transfer. It specializes in early drug discovery, always working in collaboration with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, and has become an international leader in this field.
Esteve is a leading Spanish pharmaceutical company in the sector with a turnover of 830 million euros and an R&D investment of 63 million euros in 2014. Its business activity is characterized by developing open innovation models with strategic alliances and partnerships. In January 2015 the company signed a global agreement with Mundipharma Laboratories GmbH and its independent associated company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals LP, to bring to market a next generation of products for pain management.