Ballard Spahr client Vanderbilt University is well on its way to finding new ways to treat devastating brain diseases, thanks to a research collaboration agreement it signed with AstraZeneca.

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca exclusively licensed the rights to compounds developed by the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD). The partnership is the result of the VCNDD's unique drug discovery system combined with AstraZeneca's increased interest in pursuing research collaborations in neuroscience research.

The arrangement allows Vanderbilt researchers, with AstraZeneca, to further develop the existing compounds, which act on the M4 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor, a protein that plays a role in the transmission of impulses through the central nervous system. The collaboration will enable researchers to pinpoint additional M4 compounds, in hopes of identifying candidate drugs used to treat psychosis and other neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Vanderbilt will receive funding for two years, along with an upfront payment, and will receive success-based milestones and royalties on global sales of products developed as part of the collaboration. D. Brian Shortell, Ph.D., leader of Ballard Spahr's pharmaceutical patents team, and technical specialist Richard T. Timmer, Ph.D., were involved in the patent strategy and preparation of the applications pertaining to the license between Vanderbilt and AstraZeneca.

“This agreement is another example of how, through creative partnerships, elite universities like Vanderbilt can make progress toward discovering the next medical breakthrough in the face of declining government funding for academic research,” Dr. Shortell said.