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Searching for new Diabetes Drugs with Systems Biology


Roche and the Competence Center for Systems Physiology and Metabolic Diseases (CC-SPMD) of SystemsX, the Swiss Initiative in Systems Biology, today announced a three-year research partnership. Scientists from Roche and the CC-SPMD will participate in a joint research project entitled «Systems biology of the beta cell-application to type 2 diabetes progression». The project aims to identify novel pathways for drug development in diabetes as well as new biomarkers of beta cell failure for diagnostics. Beta cells which are located in the isles of Langerhans in the pancreas produce and release the hormone insulin, controlling the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

A team of more than 15 scientists at Roche and the CC-SPMD, including researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and University of Zurich, will collaborate and exchange research results. The project will be financed by Roche at a cost of 2.1 million Swiss francs each year for three years.

«This new, systems-oriented research approach, the integration of several disciplines and collaboration of outstanding scientists from academia and industry will allow us to obtain new insights into the dysregulation of beta cells and their impact on type 2 diabetes progression. We intend to translate this knowledge into innovative treatment options for patients», said René Imhof, Head of Pharma Research, Basel.

«This holistic approach should prove that the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and ultimately replace the key physiological pathways at the center of our attention, which is critical for our understanding of metabolic disorders», said Jacques Mizrahi, Global Therapy Area Head of Metabolic and Vascular Diseases, at Roche.

«I am very pleased that such a promising collaboration between a SystemsX project and Roche became reality so fast», said Prof. Ernst Hafen, President of the ETH Zurich and Chairman of the Board of Directors of SystemsX. Prof. Alexander Borbély, Vice-President Research at the University of Zurich, emphasised: «The early incorporation of clinical scientists from the University of Zurich is a good example of an integrative approach to major scientific issues in medicine». And Willy Krek, Professor of Cell Biology at the ETH Zurich and Director of the CC-SPMD, said: «Working closely together with Roche we have designed an exciting project that will accelerate the effective conversion of basic discoveries into evidence-based therapies».

Prof. Willy Krek | alfa
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