Edinburgh University in Merck licence deal

Udit Batra

The University of Edinburgh said it signed a licence agreement with life sciences giant Merck for pioneering fluorescent probe technology “that helps understand how disease progresses.”

It said Edinburgh Research & Innovation, the university’s commercialisation arm, entered into a licence agreement with the life science business of Merck.

The agreement provides Merck with access to a pioneering technology to prepare fluorescent peptides as tools to understand how disease progresses in early stages.

“At Merck, we are always looking for innovative ideas to enhance our customers’ research efforts,” said Udit Batra, CEO Life Science at Merck.

“This compound from the University of Edinburgh offers researchers a way to fluorescently label peptides that has minimal interference with peptide structure.

“This will enable biological discovery and complement our portfolio of chemical biology tools.”

A research team from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Clinical Sciences, led by the principal investigator Dr Marc Vendrell, worked in collaboration with partners at the University of Barcelona (Professor Rodolfo Lavilla) and The University of Manchester (Professor Nick Read) to co-invent the technology.

The initial stages of the technology have been funded by the EU Commission via a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant.

This technology, the subject of a patent application, will allow the “use of natural peptide mimics as disease reporters by applying a fluorescent compound that makes their identification easier under the microscope.”

Vendrell said: “Peptides are essential natural products, but they are not fluorescent and therefore invisible under the microscope.

“If we want to know how peptides behave, we need to attach them to fluorescent tags in order to ‘see’ them.

“Crucially, it is very important that when we attach these tags to make peptides fluorescent, they behave exactly in the same way as they would in their natural state.

“This is exactly what we have achieved with our technology.”

Angus Stewart-Liddon, Edinburgh Research & Innovation’s licensing executive, said: “This is an exciting breakthrough as it provides a powerful addition to our ‘toolbox’ to investigate disease action.

“Working with the life science business of Merck means the technology will be made readily accessible to researchers worldwide, both in industry and in academia.

“It is another great example of the university working in collaboration with trusted industry partners to make valuable research tools accessible.”