21 June 2022 | Tuesday | News
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This effort will build on Johnson & Johnson's decade-long legacy and ongoing collaboration with Duke-NUS in early-stage dengue research
The Satellite Center is the first Asia Pacific site in Johnson & Johnson's network of research collaborations aimed at addressing entrenched and emerging pandemic threats
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) (the Company) today announced the launch of the new J&J Satellite Center for Global Health Discovery (Satellite Center) at Singapore's Duke-NUS Medical School, jointly established by Duke University and the National University of Singapore (NUS) as a graduate-entry medical school and research powerhouse. As the first of the J&J Centers for Global Health Discovery (J&J Centers) in the Asia-Pacific region, the Satellite Center at Duke-NUS aims to help drive new solutions to address flaviviruses, which disproportionately impact communities across the region, by bringing together the talent and expertise of the world's largest healthcare company with that of a leading academic institution.
The launch of the newest Satellite Center at Duke-NUS comes at a critical time. More than 400 million people are infected with flaviviruses each year and half of the global population is at risk, with Asia experiencing nearly three-quarters of the global burden. A warming planet means that billions more people could be impacted in the coming decades as the animal vectors that carry flaviviruses spread beyond the tropical regions where they have traditionally thrived.
Flaviviruses, like dengue and Zika, cause significant illness and death, yet no specific antiviral therapeutics are currently available. The frequency of dengue outbreaks has grown considerably over the past two decades, as evidenced by surges in places like Singapore. After experiencing its worst outbreak in history in 2020, Singapore is facing another major outbreak this year with more than 8,000 cases recorded in the first six months of 2022, exceeding the number of cases reported in the whole of 2021.
"Singapore is one of the epicenters of the dengue threat as well as a leading innovation and research hub, making Duke-NUS a natural match for our vision to address flaviviruses by advancing innovative science," said Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Global Public Health R&D at Janssen Research & Development, LLC. "Together, we can each leverage our unique strengths to translate action in the lab into solutions at the last mile that can help protect people against one of the world's most significant and rising health threats."
The J&J Centers for Global Health Discovery (J&J Centers) are a pillar of Johnson & Johnson's efforts to advance early-stage, breakthrough science where research is needed most and health challenges are most acute. The latest Satellite Center builds on a longstanding collaboration between the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Duke-NUS and marks the latest effort of the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre to develop a collaborative Discovery District on its Campus to drive bench-to-bedside innovations. The collaboration will unite expertise from across the scientific community in the Asia-Pacific region to further cultivate Singapore as a hub of discovery research, while advancing R&D to address the unmet medical need of flaviviruses.
"The establishment of the Satellite Center at Duke-NUS builds upon our strong track record in flavivirus research and bench-to-bedside innovations, and will facilitate antiviral drug discovery for the prevention and treatment of flavivirus-associated diseases that are affecting communities in Southeast Asia and beyond. The collaboration is both timely, in view of the impending threat of climate change, and purposeful in realizing the School's vision of transforming medicine and improving lives," said Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice-Dean for Research at Duke-NUS.
Research at the Satellite Center at Duke-NUS will be led by Professor Subhash Vasudevan, Ph.D., Duke-NUS' EID Program, and Olivia Goethals, Ph.D., Principal Scientist, Global Public Health R&D, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.
Complementing the efforts of the Satellite Center, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, together with Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, is proud to launch the Global Health Discovery QuickFire Challenge: Flavivirus Infections. The Challenge invites innovators to submit potentially ground-breaking ideas aiming to treat, control, or prevent flavivirus disease. The innovator(s) with the best potential solution will receive grant funding from a total pool of $300,000, virtual access to the JLABS Asia Pacific community, including a dedicated workstation for one year at JLABS @ Shanghai, and mentorship from experts at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.
Applications will be accepted until August 12, 2022. To apply for the Global Health Discovery QuickFire Challenge: Flavivirus Infections, please visit the application portal.
The Company's dengue compound discovery program started in 2007 to address the unmet medical need for treatment and prevention options for the dengue virus. The efforts at the new Satellite Center will build on more than a decade of work by Johnson & Johnson to accelerate innovation in the development of new potential preventive and therapeutic options for dengue.
In 2021, Johnson & Johnson announced the completion of a Phase 1, first-in-human clinical study evaluating a dengue-specific antiviral small molecule, with data from the study showing the antiviral to be safe and well-tolerated in humans. Additional preclinical data demonstrated the antiviral's favorable safety profile and effectiveness at preventing dengue in mouse and non-human primate models.
"While there is an urgent need for new tools to address diseases like dengue, especially in the face of climate change, we believe we can accelerate research to move even faster," said Marnix Van Loock, Ph.D., Lead for Emerging Pathogens, Global Public Health R&D, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. "Building on our shared legacies, the Satellite Center at Duke-NUS will help jumpstart the innovation we need to strengthen the R&D pipeline and address the burden of these diseases."
Duke-NUS has played a critical role in driving progress to tackle dengue, most recently by working with SingHealth's Investigational Medicine Unit to conduct a Phase 2a clinical trial evaluating Janssen's antiviral compound for the treatment of dengue.