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TRL refocuses new US site on biologic drugs

By Wai Lang Chu , 28-Jun-2010
Last updated the 29-Jun-2010 at 08:48 GMT

Tanabe Research Labs (TRL) has revealed details of its new San Diego facility in which the revised layout of the site allows a fresh focus on antibody and biological approaches to autoimmune diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

TRL joins a plethora of biotechnology companies currently involved in drug discovery for autoimmune diseases. With a biologics sales market projected to hit $55bn in 2014, the potential for big pharma to partner with biotechnology firms in developing biologics remains a lucrative proposition.

In its new guise, TRL intend to focus much of its research on specific immune cells and soluble factors, as well as investigating novel methods for modulating immune cell functions.

The hope is this approach will eventually discover and develop biological drug candidates for therapy in autoimmune diseases. TRL said it expects to hire a team of new scientists and to be fully functional by the end of this year.

"There is a great deal of relevant scientific know-how in the San Diego region and many opportunities to collaborate with others in pursuing success in similar areas of research,” said Masaki Yamada, new Chief Executive Officer of TRL.

“We believe the new focus on biologicals will be very rewarding and we look forward to TRL becoming a significant player in this area."

TRL, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, Japan, represents its overseas discovery research. Currently Mitsubishi Tanabe’s domestic research operations consist of two sites in eastern and western Japan.

Global R&D plans

In its annual report, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma outlined its desire to expand its worldwide research capabilities by aggressively pursuing joint development with pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. and Europe, and in-licensing and out-licensing of development candidates.

Its drug candidate TA-7284 for diabetes has already been licensed to Johnson & Johnson, in the US and Europe while FTY720, its treatment for multiple sclerosis, has been licensed to Novartis in the US and Europe.

TRL revealed its intention to continue this action, commenting that the new site would not only build in-house research programs, but also establish collaborative relationships with other companies and academic research organisations to further identifying preclinical leads for development.

Through TRL, the Group plans to further expand into the renal disease market with MCI-196 for hyperphosphatemia and MP-146, its indication for chronic kidney disease).

San Diego has long been associated as a haven for biotechnology companies. Not only have companies such as Merck, Pfizer, Dow, and Johnson & Johnson set up operations here, but world-class research institutions such as the Scripps Research Institute; the University of California, San Diego; and the Salk Institute all lie within close proximity to each other.

Biotechnology companies like Neurocrine Biosciences and Nventa Biopharmaceuticals have found their place in San Diego as well as companies, such as BD Biosciences, Biogen Idec, Integrated DNA Technologies, Élan, Genzyme, Cytovance, Celgene and Vertex, who all have offices or research facilities in the region.

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