Six leading pharmaceutical companies have committed over £14 million in new funds to the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT), a collaboration between industry and academia at Scotland’s University of Dundee that pursues early-stage research in fields such as cancer, arthritis, lupus, hypertension and Parkinson’s disease.

The DSTT was set up in 1998, expanded in 2003 and renewed for a second time in 2008. The latest round of funding, which will secure 50 posts at the University of Dundee for the next four years, means the Division will have attracted investment of £50 million in total since it launched.

The six companies – AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Merck-Serono (Merck KGaA) and Pfizer – will provide core support of £14.4 million for the DSTT over a four-year period extending from July 2012 to July 2016

Kinases and ubiquitin

The DSTT includes 15 research teams based at the University of Dundee, 13 of them within the MRC [Medical Research Council] Protein Phosphorylation Unit and the Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling (SCILLS) at the College of Life Sciences. 

The Division works with industry to accelerate the development of improved drugs for global diseases based on kinases and the body’s ubiquitin system. Kinase drug discovery accounts for around 30% of industry’s total R&D budget and for more than 50% of global cancer drug discovery.

According to the University of Dundee, the MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, the Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling and the College of Life Sciences at Dundee together make up the world’s largest centre for the study of kinases and the ubiquitin system, with some 200 scientific and support staff working in this area.

Unprecedented collaboration

Collaborations between academic laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry “typically last a few years”, noted DSTT co-founder Professor Sir Philip Cohen.

“Therefore to maintain and expand support for the DSTT from 1998 until at least 2016 is unprecedented and remarkable. It shows how valuable the collaboration has been for the pharmaceutical industry.”