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The University of Oxford and Bayer HealthCare have entered into a strategic research alliance in the area of gynaecological therapies. The multi-target collaboration focuses on endometriosis and uterine fibroids with the goal of discovering and developing innovative treatment options for these diseases. The alliance is for an initial period of two years, but is open for extension to up to five years.

Both conditions affect millions of women worldwide and are still poorly understood, presenting a high unmet medical need for innovative therapies as there is no known curative drug treatment available.

Professor Udo Oppermann, Oxford’s Scientific Director in the alliance and Director of Laboratory Sciences at the Botnar Research Centre at Oxford University commented: “Clearly novel approaches are required to better understand these devastating diseases and develop novel therapeutic concepts to treat endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Oxford with its excellent translational approaches and departments can perfectly contribute to this challenging task.”

“We are delighted to partner with Bayer HealthCare and to combine our clinical and scientific expertise in endometriosis and uterine fibroids with Bayer HealthCare’s long standing experience in women’s health and drug development” added Professor Stephen Kennedy, Head of the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford commented: “This collaboration draws on the particular skill sets of each partner in the development of innovative new therapies that could benefit millions of women around the world, and shows Oxford’s commitment to work jointly with industry to develop novel medicines”.

Research projects will be jointly performed at the Bayer HealthCare R&D Centre in Berlin, Germany, and at several University of Oxford centres and institutes participating in the alliance.

Target discovery and pre-clinical validation will be performed by the Target Discovery Institute under the lead of Professor Stefan Knapp together with the Botnar – Kennedy Tissue platform located at the Botnar Research Centre. Clinical expertise will be provided by the Oxford Endometrioses CaRe Centre, a collaboration between the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which is one of the leading centres in the world for clinical care and research in endometriosis.

Dr Christian Becker, Co-Director of the Centre, Clinician Scientist and Clinical Lead in the alliance, said: “This translational research programme is an exciting opportunity and fits entirely with the central aim of our centre, to integrate patient care of the highest standard with cutting-edge scientific research. With our dedicated and highly skilled clinical and research team we are hoping to make a real difference for patients suffering from endometriosis and fibroid related symptoms”.

Dr Krina Zondervan, Co-Director of the Centre and Oxford's Scientific Lead for Genetic Discovery & Translation commented: “The programme is a natural follow-on from our genetic discovery studies in endometriosis, which has involved the help of thousands of women and has provided us with new insights into the genetic variants that are involved in disease development. The challenge now is to understand how these variants work in biological pathways and whether this information can be used to aid the discovery of new treatment targets”.

Bayer HealthCare is the world leader in the field of hormonal contraception and a pioneer in women’s healthcare focusing on innovations in contraception and gynaecological therapies.

“This new partnership with one of the world’s leading institutions brings together the drug development expertise at Bayer with the disease and target expert knowledge at the University of Oxford,” said Professor Andreas Busch, Member of the Bayer HealthCare Executive Committee and Head of Global Drug Discovery. “The collaboration provides us with the opportunity to jointly develop novel treatment options for women suffering from these debilitating diseases”. 

“Innovation is the key to our continued success at Bayer and Bayer HealthCare”, said Dr Alexander Moscho, CEO Bayer UK/Ireland. “We develop products that solve problems and improve the lives of many millions of people. We are pleased that this new partnership, with one of the world’s leading institutions, further demonstrates our commitment to the UK”.

Under the terms of the agreement both parties will contribute innovative drug targets and high quality technology infrastructures. Furthermore, Bayer HealthCare and the University of Oxford will share responsibilities from basic research to early clinical trials in these two diseases.

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