Partnering to Find New Drug Therapies for Kidney Disease

Light micrograph of section of kidney from patient with chronic renal failure, H&E stain.
Vanderbilt and Bayer aim to end the long hiatus in new drug discovery

“We are excited about this partnership with Bayer to develop new drugs and novel therapies to target patients who have kidney diseases and to stop their progression.”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Bayer have agreed on a five-year strategic research alliance to evaluate new drug candidates for the treatment of kidney diseases, with the goal of accelerating the translation of innovative approaches from the laboratory to pre-clinical development.

Patients suffering from end-stage renal disease (ESRD) face dialysis, transplantation or palliative care as their only therapeutic options. There is no effective treatment available that can prevent the cardiovascular consequences of chronic kidney disease and at the same time reduce the progression to ESRD. The goal is to develop two new investigational drugs addressing the medical need of ESRD within the time frame of this strategic research alliance.

“We are excited about this partnership with Bayer to develop new drugs and novel therapies to target patients who have kidney diseases and to stop their progression,” said Raymond Harris, M.D., director of Vanderbilt’s Division of Nephrology.


Bayer Expands Further into Renal Disease Research

VUMC and Bayer established the agreement to conduct joint research activities including target validation, assay development and lead optimization. Both parties will contribute personnel and infrastructure to address important scientific questions. Bayer will have an option for the exclusive use of the collaboration’s results.

“Bayer is committed to further expanding its research efforts in the area of renal diseases,” said Andreas Busch, a member of the executive committee of Bayer AG’s Pharmaceuticals Division and head of drug discovery.

“We are seeking to join forces with industrial and academic partners to develop innovative drug candidates and to eventually offer patients new treatment options.” Busch said. “Therefore, we are pleased to partner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which is among the academic leaders in kidney disease and clinical translation.”

Drug Discovery and Development

Through the five-year drug discovery project, Vanderbilt will work on various projects to develop a number of potential compounds to be tested and eventually used on patients. The research hopes to end the long wait for effective therapies for kidney disease. Since the introduction of (ACE) inhibitors and ARBs in the 1990s, there hasn’t been a major drug discovery to slow progression of chronic kidney disease.

“Our mission is to perform innovative research and translate discoveries to prevent, diagnose, and cure kidney diseases,” Harris said. “Bayer and Vanderbilt will work together on multiple projects, combining our joint expertise. This additional research will allow us to make advances in the area of kidney diseases.”

Harris said drug discovery and development takes several years and includes various stages and phases of testing. The Division of Nephrology will work alongside Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Chemical Biology to have a treatment ready for clinical trial testing at the earliest possible date.

In addition to Harris, other Vanderbilt faculty members involved include Jay Bhave, M.D., Ph.D., Kyle Brown, Ph.D., Agnes Fogo, M.D., Billy Hudson, Ph.D., Craig Lindsley, Ph.D., Ambra Pozzi, Ph.D., Takamune Takahashi, M.D., Ph.D., Dave Weaver, Ph.D., Roy Zent, M.D., Ph.D., and Ming-Zhi Zhang, M.D.