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25 November 2013

Oxford partners with Summit to treat DMD

Oxford University strikes licensing deal with Summit to develop drugs to combat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Author: Gregg Bayes-Brown, editor

Oxford has signed a deal with pharmaceutical firm and spin-out Summit to further develop drugs which tackle Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The muscle wasting disease affects one in every 3,500 boys, which leaves patients unable to walk by their teenage years and with a life expectancy of early thirties at the very most. Currently, there is no cure for the condition. However, Oxford scientists reckon that by targeting genes which control utrophine, which can help stabilise muscle membranes.

Dame Kay Davies, a professor at Oxford working on the treatment, said: “These boys all still have the utrophin gene – and that’s what we’re taking advantage of. In adult muscle, utrophin is present in very low amounts, and we aim to increase the amount to levels which will help protect the muscle in these boys. If this approach, called utrophin modulation, really works as we hope, we could treat these boys very early on, increase their quality of life and length of life. They would walk for longer.

Davies added: “This is a disease that really needs effective treatment – it takes many families by surprise because of the high new mutation rate which occurs in dystrophin protein such that boys with no family history of the disease can be affected.”

Under the terms of the deal, both Oxford and its Alternative Investment Market-listed spin-out Summit will work together in a research collaboration to further develop the molecules used in the treatment.

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