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Feb 06, 2014
 |  BC Innovations  |  Cover Story

Germinating MALT1

AstraZeneca plc has teamed up with the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery to make the first disclosed industry play for inhibitors of MALT1. The deal announcement caps five years of progress toward validating MALT1 in B cell lymphoma and autoimmune diseases.

MALT1 (mucosa associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma translocation gene 1) was first identified as a driver of a small subset of B cell lymphomas more than a decade ago. The protein was quickly implicated by Roche's Genentech Inc.unitand other groupsas a regulator of B and T cell signaling and NF-kB activity,1 but its precise molecular function and the potential druggability of the target remained unclear.

That changed in 2008 when two independent teams-one led by the University of Lausanne2and one led by Rudi Beyaert at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB),3 reported in Nature Immunology that MALT1 functions as a protease through a conserved paracaspase domain.

Beyaert is associate department director of the VIB inflammation research center. He was joined on the paper by Thijs Baens, a staff scientist at VIB, and Peter Marynen, a professor of human molecular genetics at the Catholic University Leuven. In 2008, the team also filed a patent application describing peptide and small molecule inhibitors of MALT1.

Last week, AstraZeneca licensed...

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