UCLA forms research collaboration with Yuyu Pharma to advance MS treatment

Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl
Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl

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Through a new collaboration with a South Korean pharmaceutical company, UCLA scientists will participate in the process to develop a new drug to treat multiple sclerosis.

UCLA and Yuyu Pharma will evaluate the efficacy and safety of drugs that have the potential to treat the debilitating disease.

The collaboration was facilitated by the UCLA Technology Development Group, which manages UCLA's intellectual property and spearheads partnerships with private industry to commercialize UCLA research.

"We are excited that Yuyu Pharma chose UCLA as its first academic institution partner in the U.S.," said Amir Naiberg, UCLA associate vice chancellor and the CEO and president of the Technology Development Group.

Leading the project for UCLA are Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl and Professor Michael Jung. Voskuhl is a physician, research scientist and UCLA's Jack H. Skirball Professor of Multiple Sclerosis Research. They have already developed drug candidates that have shown promise in lab tests and that may eventually be applicable for people with either relapsing-remitting or progressive multiple sclerosis.

"I am very excited to advance my laboratory's basic discovery of a novel approach to repair damage in the brain in multiple sclerosis," said Voskuhl, who also is director of the UCLA Multiple Sclerosis Program. "Our team at UCLA in partnership with Yuyu aims to bring this to patients by sharing our unique and complementary areas of expertise."

Jung holds the University of California Presidential Chair in Medicinal Chemistry and is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry; he also is associate dean for entrepreneurship and innovation in the UCLA College Division of Physical Sciences.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. That damage disrupts the nervous system’s ability to transmit signals. The disease usually begins between the ages of 20 and 50, and it is twice as common in women. According to the National MS Society, about 2.3 million people worldwide have the disease.

"Many patients with MS face significant burdens, and we hope our collaboration with UCLA can someday help them with both their physical and mental health," said Robert Wonsang Yu, CEO of Yuyu.

Founded in 1941 and listed on the Korean Stock Exchange since 1975, Yuyu manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical products, medical devices and food supplements. The company has an exclusive option to license the intellectual property for the drug candidates developed as part of the collaboration.

The research by Voskuhl and Jung that produced the drug candidates was supported by the UCLA Innovation Fund, which provides funding to speed UCLA technologies from idea to market, bridging the funding gap between academia and industry.

"This new research collaboration embodies the mission of the UCLA Innovation Fund: to catalyze our promising academic research out to strong industry partners," said Thomas Lipkin, director of the fund and of new ventures for the Technology Development Group. "The UCLA and Yuyu collaboration is instrumental in moving this promising technology forward."