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IRB Barcelona and Almirall announce a research collaboration to discover novel molecular glue therapeutics for severe skin diseases

18 Jan 22



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The collaboration aims to identify novel oral therapies for immune-inflammatory skin diseases with high unmet medical needs using a novel therapeutic modality called molecular glue degraders.

Molecular glue degraders could represent an opportunity to expand the scope of druggable targets with small, drug-like molecules that can reprogram natural cellular mechanisms to selectively remove disease-driving proteins from human tissues.


Almirall, S.A. (ALM), a global biopharmaceutical company focused on skin health, and IRB Barcelona (the Institute for Research in Biomedicine), an independent, international research centre engaged in fundamental and applied biomedical science, announced today a research collaboration to identify new oral treatments for immune-inflammatory skin diseases with remaining high unmet medical needs using molecular glue degraders, a novel therapeutic modality. These monovalent degraders offer a new avenue to induce the degradation of potentially disease-causing proteins that cannot be targeted with conventional therapeutic agents.

The collaboration brings together Almirall’s scientific, dermatological, and data analysis knowledge with the expertise of the IRB Barcelona’s Targeted Protein Degradation and Drug Discovery lab, led by Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz. Recently awarded with an ERC Starting Grant, Dr. Mayor-Ruiz is a reputed expert on targeted protein degradation and pioneer investigator in the areas of the rational screening of molecular glues as well as the elucidation of their mechanism of action. Through this partnership, Almirall is expanding its toolbox of Targeted Protein Degradation approaches by entering the field of molecular glues.

Almirall scientists have identified several proteins whose abnormal function is associated with inflammatory immune skin diseases. However, many of these potentially therapeutically relevant proteins are not amenable to conventional small-molecule inhibitors, as they lack defined ligand-binding pockets. Molecular glue degraders can harness and reprogram natural cellular mechanisms to selectively remove those disease-driving proteins from human tissues. They can do so by promoting interactions ("gluing") between these therapeutically relevant proteins and the machinery used by cells to naturally tag and destroy proteins.

"This exciting collaboration underlines Almirall's R&D commitment to provide innovative treatment options to patients suffering from severe skin diseases. It also builds on complementary core expertise of each partner to facilitate research and drug development. We are eager to start working with Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz’s group in the development of molecular glue therapeutic and are convinced that this partnership has the potential to address unmet needs in dermatological diseases.", states Dr. Thomas Huber, Head of Research at Almirall.
“We are very excited about this collaboration with Almirall. It's an amazing opportunity to put their knowledge and experience in dermatology, together with our expertise in molecular glues to accelerate drug discovery to treat skin diseases. The biochemical characteristics of molecular glues make them suitable candidates, and this innovative approach could really mark a turning point in dermatological pharmacology. So much looking forward to making this vision a reality together with Almirall´s fantastic team”, explains Dr. Cristina Mayor-Ruiz, Ph.D., Junior Group Leader at IRB Barcelona

Over the past year, Almirall has established strategic collaborations to accelerate the discovery and development of new therapies in Medical Dermatology. Examples of these agreements are the partnership with BIOMAP, the first dermatology project of the European Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), to advance the field of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, and the collaboration with the University of Dundee, which will bring with it the opportunity to develop new therapies based on Proteolysis Targeted Chimeras, another type of targeted protein degraders.


About IRB Barcelona

Created in 2005 by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) and University of Barcelona, IRB Barcelona is a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence, a seal that was awarded in 2011. The institute is devoted to conducting research of excellence in biomedicine and to transferring results to clinical practice, thus improving people’s quality of life, while simultaneously promoting the training of outstanding researchers, technology transfer, and public communication of science. Its 27 laboratories and eight core facilities address basic questions in biology and are orientated to diseases such as cancer, metastasis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and rare conditions. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 employees and more than 30 nationalities. It is located in the Barcelona Science Park. IRB Barcelona is a CERCA center, and a member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).