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Mar 15, 2010
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Scaling up in epigenetics

GlaxoSmithKline plc last week confirmed its belief that epigenetics might be a useful tool in the discovery of new anti-inflammatory drugs. Convinced by a growing body of scientific evidence that epigenetic processes such as DNA methylation and histone modifications are critical regulatory events in mammalian gene expression, the pharma has acquired exclusive access to a platform technology developed by Cellzome AG for the discovery of oral small molecules to treat immuno-inflammatory diseases.

Epigenetics is concerned with heritable changes that do not change the DNA sequence, but instead involve stable modifications of chromatin, DNA or protein conformation. Much of the field's scientific focus has been on histone demethylases, which modify chromatin function and are seen as potential targets for treating immune diseases.

Until recently, commercial interest in epigenetics has been focused on oncology, and only two classes of targets - histone deacetylases and DNA methyltransferases - have yielded approved drugs.

Having worked closely with a number of academic groups, GSK believes the discipline could become a major drug discovery tool. To that end, the pharma has established a discovery performance unit (DPU) within its Immuno-Inflammation Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery (II-CEDD). The EpiNova PDU will focus its epigenetics ambitions, particularly in inflammation and...

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