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ucbpharma.co.uk Our Science Overview

Our Science

UCB's goal is to achieve a leading position in discovering and developing new therapies to treat patients suffering from severe diseases. With a promising pipeline, our focus is on neurological and immunological diseases, and to provide new treatments for specialists and their patients.

The UK is home to one of UCB's two global research centres, where we employ a team of highly skilled scientists who have led the way in the research and development of a significant number of medicines, which are now successfully treating patients across the UK and beyond.

Stronger Together

We believe sharing knowledge and expertise is essential for the rapid growth of scientific understanding, and that bringing innovative therapies to patients requires intensive cooperation. For UCB, future success lies in building long-term collaborations. Our external innovation network helps to push the boundaries of our understanding. By collaborating with our external innovation network, UCB scientists are working to develop a promising pipeline. We currently collaborate with over 100 UK universities, charities and companies, including the University of Oxford and work with organisations such as the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to advance science and fund PhD programmes.

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Technology Platform Access Programme (TPAP)

Today, medicine discovery is a sophisticated process that integrates scientific innovation with cutting-edge technology. In order to further support drug discovery, UCB has developed a Technology Platform Access Programme (TPAP). This is a global programme that offers the chance for groups to access UCB's state-of-the-art technology and collaborate with our premier drug discovery team. We are actively seeking collaborators interested in the opportunity to participate in our TPAP and to collaborate with us in the discovery of new medicines.

Immunology

UCB scientists are working to develop new treatments for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Treatment of immunological conditions and the use of antibodies as medicines have come a long way in the 40 years since Celltech was founded. Celltech was acquired by UCB in 2004 and since then our scientists have worked at the cutting edge of research, using antibodies as both research tools and therapeutics. From its global research facilities in the UK, UCB has brought a significant number of novel immuno-therapies to the market. 

UCB is proud to be continuing our heritage of drug discovery in immunology, through the continued investigation of novel molecules and modes of actions. Our current research includes therapies that target multiple angles of the IL-17 pathway, blocking IL-17A and IL-17F simultaneously with one antibody, with great potential in the treatment of disorders such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Additionally, we are  investigating the use of small molecule drugs to target pathways previously only modified by antibody therapies.

 

 

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More information on our pipeline in immunology and ongoing clinical trials can be found on our global website.

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More information on our pipeline in neurology and ongoing clinical trials can be found on our global website.

Neurology

UCB have a long standing interest in neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. Our commitment to patients suffering from long-term neurodegenerative diseases has resulted in the early clinical development of two exploratory molecules which aim to slow down or halt the progression of these diseases:

UCB’s collaborations with world-leading academics has led to the development of several other potentially disease-modifying therapeutics which are currently in various stages of pre-clinical development.

Today, only 52% of people with epilepsy in the UK are seizure free.1 This unmet need is driving scientists at UCB to actively seek out new strategies for the discovery and development of novel epilepsy treatments by collaborating with leading scientists and technology companies. For example, a recent collaboration with Imperial College London resulted in the discovery of novel treatment strategies and drug targets and UCB are proud to be working with Q-state to develop new therapeutics for epilepsy. UCB are challenging conventional approaches to anti-epileptic drug discovery and are driving a paradigm shift to move away from treating the symptoms to preventing or reversing the disease itself.

UCB are currently pursuing clinical studies with novel investigational anti-epileptic drug candidates targeted at highly drug-resistant epilepsy patients, who failed on several anti-epileptic drugs.

 

 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the density and quality of bone are reduced, making bones fragile and increasing the risk of fracture. Where an individual has osteoporosis, the rate of bone loss ends up being greater than the rate at which new bone grows.

There are no symptoms for osteoporosis and therefore in most cases it goes undetected until someone breaks a bone. The following however can be signs of osteoporosis2:

  • severe back pain
  • your spine has become curved
  • you have lost height

Currently, 300,000 fragility fractures a year in the UK are due to osteoporosis, with a higher prevalence in women.Fragility fractures most commonly occur in the spine, hip, and wrist. They can also occur in the arm, pelvis, ribs and other bones. A fragility fracture as a result of osteoporosis can cause substantial pain and severe disability, leading to a reduced quality of life. A hip fracture nearly always requires hospitalisation and can be fatal in 20% of cases.4

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Evidence has shown that many women who sustain a fragility fracture are not appropriately diagnosed and treated. Few people know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.

At UCB we want to bring an end to fragility fractures. We see an opportunity to improve the lives of over three million people living in the UK with osteoporosis and are taking action against fragility fractures that affects one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50.5

Pipeline in Osteoporosis

In our gene-to-drug project, our scientists have combined reverse engineering and genomics to create a pipeline medicine for osteoporosis. Sclerostin plays a critical role in controlling bone mass by inhibiting the activity of bone-forming cells called osteoblasts (sclerosteosis is the opposite of osteoporosis). UCB were able to identify the defective gene and reverse engineer a humanised monoclonal antibody that neutralises sclerostin and acts as a bone anabolic agent.

This potential new medicine is currently in phase III clinical trials.

The Sclerosteosis Story

The inspiration for new medicines is sometimes found in unusual places. In isolated Afrikaner communities in South Africa, around 100 people have been diagnosed with a rare inherited condition called sclerosteosis. While the condition is associated with a variety of problems, researchers also found that their bones are big, very dense and particularly strong.

Their strong bones are due to a mutation in the gene that controls the production of sclerostin - a substance which in turn limits bone formation. Because their bodies failed to produce, or had lower levels of, sclerostin their bones grew quickly and very strong.

This remarkable story is helping to write a new chapter in UCB's history and has the potential to help change the lives of women and men living with osteoporosis.

More information on our pipeline and ongoing clinical trials can be found on our global website.

 

1 Epilepsy facts, figures and terminology. Epilepsy Action https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/press/facts (last accessed April 2018) 

2 What is osteoporosis? International Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.iofbonehealth.org/what-is-osteoporosis (last accessed April 2018)

3 Osteoporosis: assessing the risk of fragility fracture. NICE. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg146/chapter/introduction#ftn.footnote_2 (last accessed April 2018)

4 Osteoporosis: assessing the risk of fragility fracture. NICE. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg146/chapter/introduction#ftn.footnote_2 (last accessed April 2018)

5 Facts and statistics. International Osteoporosis Foundation.  https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics (last accessed April 2018)