Search for content, post, videos

A new national technology platform for oligonucleotide drugs

Agneta Holmäng and Claes Gustafsson

The Swedish center, called the OligoNova Hub, will be located at the University of Gothenburg.

The Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine has been awarded SEK 54 million by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and SEK 48 million from SciLifeLab and the University of Gothenburg, to create the national technology platform. It will be constructed with guidance and knowledge from AstraZeneca, according to a press release from SciLifeLab.

More effective treatment methods

Oligonucleotide drugs are based on short single- or double stranded RNA molecules (nucleotides), and today there are examples of oligonucleotide drugs that took just a few years to be developed, states the University of Gothenburg in its press release. In contrast, in traditional drug development it takes at least five years before new drugs reach patients.

“The rapid development of oligonucleotide drugs is due, in part, to the detailed knowledge we’ve gained about the human genome and how changes in it can give rise to disease. This knowledge makes it possible to use computers to fast-track the initial stages in development of new oligonucleotide drugs,” says Agneta Holmäng, Dean of Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.

Using the new platform, Swedish researchers will be able to further develop their scientific discoveries in the direction of new drugs. The hope is that this will lead both to more effective therapies and to future companies in a swiftly expanding part of the discipline of life science.

”Although the first oligonucleotide drugs were developed to treat unusual, genetic diseases, we now see a rapid development of new therapies for larger disease groups. For example, the EU recently approved the new oligonucleotide drug Inklisiran, which is used to lower cholesterol,” says Claes Gustafsson, professor of Medical Chemistry at the Sahlgrenska Academy, in a press release from the University of Gothenburg.

Part of SciLifeLab’s Drug Discovery and Development platform

The OligoNova Hub will also become part of SciLifeLab’s Drug Discovery and Development (DDD) platform. To support academic researchers in developing prototypes for new therapies, the DDD platform is focused on making transformative drug development technologies available. In 2020, the platform established a new methodology for developing protein degrading drugs (PROTACs) and launched a chemical library with over one million unique DNA-coded chemical compounds. As the platform currently focuses on small molecules and proteins, oligonucleotides will add a third dimension to the operations, describes SciLifeLab in its press release.

”This endeavor enables the DDD platform to take on new kinds of projects for diseases with unmet medical needs, and focus on different therapies. It also creates several potential synergies, for instance, a possibility to combine DDD’s unique antibody expertise with oligonucleotide drugs to facilitate delivery to the correct cell type,” says Kristian Sandberg, Co-Director of the DDD platform, in a press release from SciLifeLab. “The OligoNova Hub will establish a vibrant centre based on scientific excellence for these new medicines.”

Establishment of a network

OligoNova Hub is to be connected with a large network for research and development of oligonucleotide drugs. Establishment of this network, through a national collaboration involving the University of Gothenburg, AstraZeneca and other partners, is underway.

During the buildup phase (2020/21), this initiative is being funded by Vinnova through Swelife, the strategic innovation program.

Photo of Claes Gustafsson (right): Johan Wingborg. Photo of Agneta Holmäng (left): Malin Arnesson