Brain Sciences


UCL and Eisai collaborate in R&D to find solutions for neurodegenerative conditions

Eisai has had editorial input into this article.

UCL and Eisai

For over a decade, UCL scientists and global research-based pharmaceutical company Eisai have been working together on a research programme with the aim of developing solutions for patients with neurodegenerative conditions.

Spearheaded by the UCL Translational Research Office, which is driving sustained engagement with colleagues from Eisai’s Hatfield Research Laboratories in the UK, the ground-breaking Therapeutic Innovation Group combines the complementary capabilities and experience of Eisai and UCL. The collaboration was established to accelerate the translation of fundamental research conducted at UCL into novel drug treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.

Now this collaboration is yielding results. Earlier this year, Principal Investigator Dr Cath Mummery (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) helped to conduct human trials on an investigational antibody that targets a protein in the brain that plays a critical role in disease progression, and this investigational agent is being tested to see if it works to prevent the spread of damage in the brain.

Principal Investigator Professor Rohan de Silva (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) explains: “This testing provides the opportunity for early therapeutic intervention, before the onset of symptoms or at early-stage with mild symptoms. This is when disease-associated damage is less widespread and possibly reversible, with a better chance that targeted therapies will work to halt the disease or slow progression.”

Supported through an investment from Eisai, seven drug discovery projects have so far been initiated as part of the collaboration. These tackle a range of pathogenic mechanisms in neurodegeneration, including mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction, neuroinflammation and tau aggregation.

Most projects were initiated at a very early investigative stage, requiring basic research within the lab. The next stage is ‘target validation’ which is when a drug target and proposed therapeutic approach have been defined.

Collaborations between industry and academia benefit from complementary strengths. As a global research and development company with a strong focus on prescription medicines, Eisai is well placed to provide drug discovery and development expertise. UCL, meanwhile, has world-leading expertise in pre-clinical work and extensive experience in conducting early phase trials in dementia.  Such collaborations are particularly important for neurodegenerative diseases, where clinical trials frequently suffer from participants dropping out.

The strong foundation and trust established through working together for a decade has led to further collaborative relationships between UCL and Eisai. These include a jointly funded PhD programme to support students at the UCL Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre and links into the UK Dementia Research Institute, with Eisai supporting a post-doc programme that includes researchers from UCL.

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said:

“The partnership between UCL and Eisai shows the importance of collaboration between universities and industry when translating basic science concepts to mainstream research and development projects. UCL’s world-class academic research capabilities combined with Eisai’s industry, drug discovery expertise puts us in a uniquely strong position to tackle the challenges of neurodegenerative diseases. This is an exciting time for drug development and our work together will inevitably result in real progress in addressing this global challenge.”


September 2023 | EMEA-NEUR-23-00090