Novo NordiskToday, Novo Nordisk and the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University jointly announced a new partnership to develop promising new drug candidates and identify novel biomarkers and treatment targets for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune inflammatory diseases.

"We are excited to have this chance to further develop our autoimmune inflammatory disease pipeline in close collaboration with such a world-class translational research centre as the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology," says Per Falk, senior vice president of the Biopharmaceutical Research Unit at Novo Nordisk.

"The overall ambition is to combine our companys clinical development strengths with those of the Kennedy Institute to increase the odds that we can successfully develop novel treatment regimens and get them more quickly to the patients who could potentially benefit from them," adds Per Falk.

The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology is renowned for having made breakthroughs in the understanding of the biological pathways that lead to rheumatoid arthritis, which has had a major impact on the treatment of autoimmune inflammatory disease. Professor Sir Marc Feldmann, Head of the Institute, together with his colleague Sir Ravinder Maini, discovered the efficacy of anti-tumour necrosis factor or anti-TNF treatment, a class of drugs used as the current standard of care for moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune inflammatory diseases.

The Institute focuses on translational research techniques, including the novel use of diseased human tissue to validate new drug targets as tractable avenues for the treatment of autoimmune inflammatory diseases, and also the identification of specific biomarkers of disease that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new interventions in a range of patient populations.

"As a translational research centre, we are keen to do clinical research on truly innovative ideas that have the potential to improve how patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease are treated today," says Professor Feldmann. "Despite advances, there is still a considerable unmet need in this area with many of the patients responding only partially to existing treatments. The need for new therapeutic options is imperative."

"We will work closely together with Novo Nordisk to apply the most advanced translational research approaches available for discovering new mechanisms and validating drug targets and candidates in autoimmune inflammatory disease in a variety of human disease tissue types and at different stages of disease to ensure comprehensive characterisation of each compound's clinical potential," adds Professor Feldmann.

Novo Nordisk will fund 10 Oxford researchers at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology to work within the partnership. A Joint steering committee with members from both parties, including Per Falk and Professor Feldmann, will oversee the partnership and assess research proposals from scientists at both organisations.

About Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that can affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks the joints. It is prevalent in about 1% of the world's population. Since, RA can present very differently in diverse patient groups, it is often necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of new RA treatments in a variety of patient populations, as well as at various stages of disease development in order to optimally identify in which patient group the new treatment is most likely to be effective.