Dean James McKerrow (UC San Diego) and Paul Jackson (Janssen) discuss the partnership.
Cells before treatment showing the presence of T. Cruzi (small dots).
The UC San Diego team, along with Paul Jackson of Janssen. From left to right: Sandro Montefusco, Jair L. Siqueira-Neto, James McKerrow, Paul Jackson and Katerina Otrubova.
Cells after treatment with compounds discovered by the UC San Diego/Janssen/Johnson & Johnson collaboration showing decreased presence of T. Cruzi.
Technology has made the world as smaller place. Smart phones, video conferencing and email all allow great collaboration between individuals, even if they are thousands miles apart.
However, being close also makes for an effective partnership. Under the warm Southern California sun, a 15-minute walk helps bridge the gap between Big Pharma and Academia as two organizations are working together to help eradicate Chagas disease that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, affects more than eight million people in Central America, Mexico and South America, and is making inroads into to the United States and other parts of the world.
In November 2015, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health (GPH) and Janssen R&D Discovery Sciences established a collaboration with The Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases (CDIPD) at the University of California, San Diego to discover new treatments for Chagas disease, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients living with this disease.
The integrated collaboration, co-led by Paul Jackson, Janssen R&D Discovery Sciences in La Jolla, California, Steven Silber of J&J GPH, Jair Siqueira-Neto, Assistant Professor and Screening Core Director at UC San Diego and James McKerrow, Dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, leverages the complementary expertise of each organization.
In the collaboration, Janssen-sponsored postdoctoral candidates at UC San Diego work to identify novel drug targets, while Janssen scientists lead the discovery of small molecules that may be optimized to become new therapeutics. UC San Diego postdocs also work in the Janssen La Jolla labs to further integrate these efforts. The collaboration is facilitated by the close proximity between UC San Diego and Janssen – only a 15-minute walk separates each campus.
“The fact that the sites are so close allows us to interact as one team,” Jackson says. “We can attend group meetings at the CDIPD, interact with our collaborators face-to-face on a regular basis and have even initiated a joint seminar series devoted to NTDs.”
Chagas disease is considered a neglected tropical disease (NTD), which, according to the World Health Organization, are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people, costing developing economies billions of dollars every year. In 30 to 40 percent of the cases, Chagas disease can lead to serious and often life-threatening complications. Additionally, Chagas disease has become a leading cause of heart failure in several countries.
In 2012, Johnson & Johnson signed the London Declaration on Neglected Topical Diseases, joining the World Health Organization, twelve other pharmaceutical companies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. and U.K. governments of in a collaboration that aims to eliminate or control 10 neglected diseases by 2020, including Chagas disease.
Finding a cure for Chagas disease certainly isn’t a walk in the park. However, a walk-and-talk between the two campuses may one day usher in a breakthrough to help eradicate this disease.