May 4, 2004.
BTG (LSE:BGC), the intellectual property and technology commercialization company, announced today that it has acquired two innovative drug discovery programs from King's College London. These acquisitions will strengthen BTG's portfolio in the areas of diabetes and neurodegeneration -- two major focus areas of BTG's Ageing & Neuroscience Business Unit.
BGC20-0402 is the first described inhibitor of CORE-2 GlcNAc-Transferase -- an enzyme involved in the development of diabetic retinopathy. CORE-2 overactivity in diabetes makes white blood cells sticky. These cells then adhere to the small blood vessels in the retina, preventing blood flow, eventually leading to retinal degeneration and vision impairment. BGC20-0402 inhibits overactivity of CORE-2 and has the potential to prevent and treat diabetic retinopathy.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, an estimated 150 million people have diabetes worldwide, and the figure is expected to rise to almost 300 million by the year 2025. The alarming projected increase in diabetes is based on the ageing population, unhealthy diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle of today's population. After some 20 years of diabetes, nearly all patients with Type 1 diabetes and over 50% of patients with Type 2 diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy. It is estimated to be the most frequent cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20-74.
The second acquisition is a series of novel compounds with the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases of ageing, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Recent studies have indicated that, in these diseases, iron can accumulate to toxic levels in neurons, causing oxidative stress reactions. These new compounds have been specifically designed to prevent iron-induced neurotoxicity without interfering with normal cellular functions.
As the number of elderly people rises, the susceptibility of this sector of society to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase. In 2002, over 16 million people worldwide were suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This number is expected to triple over the next 30-40 years. The worldwide prevalence of Parkinson's disease is roughly 4.2 million people with an incidence of 300,000 new cases annually.
Dr. Russ Hagan, Vice President and head of BTG's Ageing and Neuroscience Business Unit said, "In an ageing population, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetic complications are growing healthcare problems which need new therapeutic approaches. BTG is investing in developing an innovative drug portfolio in diseases of ageing, which we will look to license to pharmaceutical partners to become the medicines of the future. We are very pleased to build upon our relationship with King's College London which has consistently provided BTG with access to high quality science and intellectual property."
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