Scientists at Ghent University discover skin-care protein

11 Jun 2007 | News

Partnership opportunity

VIB researchers working at the University of Ghent are seeking partnership to develop their research on the role of a protein, known as caspase-14, in providing skin protection from the sun’s rays.

“We are actively looking for partners to develop this specific product further,” said the lead researchers, Wim Declercq and Peter Vandenabeele, “We are also looking for partners that are willing to sponsor our further research in order to unravel the role of caspase-14, e.g. to further investigate the substrates of caspase-14, the reduction of expression in psoriasis, and the involvement of caspase-14 in skin wound recovery.”

They added, “For the development of products that contain caspase-14 we are looking in first instance for companies that have interest in the dermatological field. Our compound caspase-14 can be used in sunscreens (medical or over-the-counter sunscreens) or in therapy against e.g. psoriasis. The companies that we are looking for might be active either in the cosmetic or medical-dermatological field or in both fields. In first instance, the product should be properly formulated, so a company with expertise in formulating peptides/proteins that can be applied topically to the skin would be ideal. Active caspase-14 can be made in cheap expression hosts, e.g. E coli.  In addition, we also offer our caspase-14 KO mouse to companies that are looking for mouse models in dermatology.”

The VIB researches connected to GhentUniversity have unraveled a previously unknown role of caspase-14 protein in skin protection during a project funded by EU-FP6 Epistem, FWO, UGent, IUAP and VIB.  They have discovered that the protein plays a role in maintaining a balance in skin moisture and also protects against UVB rays which can damage skin and lead to skin cancers. 

“We have found that a knock-out mouse - which lacks caspase-14 - is highly sensitive to the formation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers upon UV-B irradiation. The resulting photo-damage leads to increased levels of UV-induced apoptosis in the skin of said mouse. Our results show that this caspase has a crucial function in protecting the skin against UV-damage. Thus, a dermal composition (e.g. as part of a sunscreen) comprising said recombinant caspase can be used to protect the skin from harmful solar exposure such as sunburn.  The KO mouse is also more prone towards the induction of parakeratosis (imiquimod and denda models) and can be regarded as an inducible psoriasis mouse model,” explained Mr. Declerq and Mr.Vandenabeele.

The researchers are looking for “a company with expertise in order to formulate our compound properly,” specifying that “The expertise in order to be able to go to clinical trials with our formulated compound in dermatology would, ideally, also be delivered by our (industrial) partner.”

The researchers added that they “are looking for a partner that is willing to take a license on our not yet public patent application. Preferably, further research to develop our project would be executed, both at our site and at the site of our industrial partner. It is not yet licensed out. The perfect partner has both “big molecule formulation expertise” and has experience in dermatology and bringing products to the clinic.”

VIB, the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, is a non-profit research institute in the life sciences. Some 1000 scientists and technicians conduct strategic basic research on the molecular mechanisms that control the functioning of the human body, plants, and micro-organisms. Through a close partnership with four Flemish universities − GhentUniversity, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of Antwerp, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel − and a solid investment program, VIB unites the forces of 65 research groups in a single institute. Their research aims at fundamentally extending the frontiers of our knowledge. Through its technology transfer activities, VIB strives to convert the research results into products for the benefit of consumers and patients. VIB also develops and distributes a broad range of scientifically substantiated information about all aspects of biotechnology.

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