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Vol 38  No 13
April 27, 2006



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University and private sector collaboration holds promise for treatment of psoriasis

By Deborah Inkpen

From left, Dr. Axel Meisen, Dr. Wayne Gulliver and Dr. Valerie Booth. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

Dr. Valerie Booth, Memorial’s Canada Research Chair in Proteomics, in collaboration with Dr. Wayne Gulliver, clinical professor of Dermatology and Medicine at Memorial University and chairman and medical director of NewLab Clinical Research, have undertaken a project to study a “psoriasis gene,” called HLACw6, in order to develop more effective treatments for psoriasis as well as other inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s and psoriatic arthritis.

The project is funded through a $703,000 grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) as well as a contribution of $250,000 from NewLab Clinical Research, and $776,715 in an in-kind contribution from the instrument vendor Bruker.

The funding for the project will be used to purchase a higher resolution NMR spectrometer to support a research program in structural studies of proteins. Such studies will unveil the structural mechanisms behind the function of proteins that are important in health and disease, and will underlie rational drug design geared towards finding new treatments.

“The instrument will be used for collaborative research with NewLab, as well as other research projects in my own group and in other research groups at MUN,” said Dr. Booth. “The collaborative research with NewLab is aimed at supporting the development of new drugs to treat psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases, by revealing the structural mechanisms behind the protein-protein interactions the lead to disease.”

Since NewLab’s initial studies in 1993 which suggested the HLACw6 was indeed the psoriasis gene, knowledge of psoriasis genetics and pharmacogenomics has significantly advanced. With the advancement of proteomics and small peptide molecular design, researchers are now in a position to develop the therapies needed to treat this severe and relentless disease.

“The contribution from NewLab Clinical Research Inc. is a key component of the project,” said Dr. Booth. “In addition to the value of the monetary contribution, concrete interest from a commercial partner makes a very positive impression on other potential sources of funding, such as CFI. The contribution has stimulated scientific interactions between NewLab and my research group - interactions which have been important in defining the research plan for our projects. Collaborative research activities started in a more major way with the arrival in early February of a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Sarah Bourbigot, who works on the collaborative research project.”

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are a founder population and a breakthrough in the genetic drug development related to the HLACw6 gene will not only benefit the patients but may also help to enhance the local economy,” said Dr. Gulliver.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have once again contributed to leading edge science allowing researchers and biotech companies in the province to be world leaders in psoriasis a common and complex disease that affects from 17 million people in Canada, U.S. and Europe.”

Dr. Gulliver also noted that the recent announcement by Premier Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale of the Newfoundland and Labrador Government’s Innovation Strategy further supports the initiatives within this province. “Newfoundland and Labrador has the potential to be a world leader in the life sciences and in particular the biotech industry and genetics projects such as the study of the HLACw6 gene can contribute significantly to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “This Innovation Strategy could be greatly enhanced by a Centre of Excellence for Translational and Personal Medicine.


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