(L-R) Billy Knight of Essex
(L-R) Billy Knight of Essex

The Epilepsy Society, a U.K.-based nonprofit, and UCB, will partner to develop personalized treatments for epilepsy through a partnership launched today with €2.5 million ($2.8 million) from the Belgian biotech.

UCB’s contribution will go toward a five-year genomics research program designed to develop an improved and deeper understanding of the complex nature of epilepsy through genome sequencing and analysis of genetic biomarkers, the company and Epilepsy Society said.

“Our hope is that by embracing genomics we will be able to provide personalized care for people with epilepsy, eventually helping us to identify the right treatment, first time,” Sanjay Sisodiya, PhD, FRCP, the Epilepsy Society's Director of Genomics, and a professor of neurology at University College London (UCL).

The partners said they will draw upon detailed clinical data such as that gathered at the Epilepsy Society's Chalfont Centre in Buckinghamshire, U.K., which integrates clinical research with tertiary care for people with the most severe and uncontrolled epilepsy—presenting what the Society said was an unparalleled opportunity to progress knowledge and understanding about the condition.

The long-term aim of the collaboration, according to the Society, will be to use key insights from research to design and develop improved, personalized approaches to managing epilepsy, tailored to individual needs and genetic characteristics.

“Working together with the Epilepsy Society we now have an exciting opportunity to develop unique insights into this condition, which will provide a platform to inform our scientific and drug discovery approaches,” stated Dhaval Patel, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at UCB. “We hope this collaboration could help in the development of tools to better identify difficult to treat patients earlier, and ultimately to develop tailored and targeted medicines which could bring significant value to these patients in the future.”

Added Clare Pelham, Chief Executive of the Epilepsy Society: “Our goal is that epilepsy should be as insignificant in a person's life as perhaps having freckles—no impediment to living a full life, driving a car or holding down a demanding job.”

“We really believe that genomics gives us the tools to make this a reality and we are delighted to be collaborating with UCB, bringing together our cutting-edge science and world class technology,” Pelham said.

The collaboration is UCB’s latest foray into genetic research. Last year, UCB acquired Duke University spinout Element Genomics for up to $30 million, in a deal designed to strengthen UCB's genomics and epigenomics research platform for identifying novel drug targets.

In 2016, UCB teamed up with Evogen, a developer of neurologic disorders diagnostics, to further develop and refine EvoScore START, Evogen’s proteomic blood test. EvoScore START is designed to more accurately distinguish epileptic seizures from other similar medical events.

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