Press release

Collaboration to develop innovative treatment approach for dermatological diseases

Published on 6 April 2022

The University of Dundee is to partner with global biopharmaceutical company Almirall to develop a novel approach against chronic and debilitating dermatology diseases where itch, or pruritus, plays a dominant role.

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The University of Dundee is to partner with global biopharmaceutical company Almirall to develop a novel approach against chronic and debilitating dermatology diseases where itch, or pruritus, plays a dominant role.

The collaboration aims to control the condition with infrequent top-up dosing rather than daily medication by building on an immune-based treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions being developed by Dr John Foerster’s team at the University.

Pruritus plays a key role in many skin diseases. An example of this is chronic itch in people aged 65 or older, referred to as ‘senile pruritus’. The condition can be caused by a combination of factors that are common in the elderly. Chronic pruritus impacts heavily on the quality of life in those who are affected, for example by causing greatly disturbed sleep. It is also responsible for significant health resource consumption.

Currently prescribed drugs for itch include antihistamines, antidepressants and sedatives. These are often only partially effective and can carry significant side effects. Physical treatments include phototherapy, acupuncture, or trans-epidermal nerve stimulation.

Dr Foerster, from the University’s School of Medicine, said, “Pruritus is one of many severe skin diseases with a high level of unmet medical need, and we hope that the treatment we develop will provide a safe and effective solution for millions of patients around the world.

“Severity and response to current treatments vary from patient to patient. However, in those who have suffered from severe pruritus for a long time, and who have not experienced improvement using available treatments, new ways to treat this dreadful condition are desperately needed.

“We don’t know exactly how many people have pruritus, but publicly available data indicate that between 15-30% of the elderly may be heavily impacted by debilitating itch. It appears this is an issue across the globe, regardless of social circumstances and skin type of various populations.

“At least half of patients experience a significant impact on their quality-of-life and face a lack of effective alternative solutions.”

Almirall is a leading skin-health focused pharmaceutical company based in Barcelona that partners with healthcare research organisations around the world. This collaboration is one of several between the company and the University seeking to develop new drugs for a range of dermatological conditions.

Dr Thomas Huber, Research Director at Almirall, said, “We are very excited to start this collaboration with a leading academic group. This early academic engagement with Dr Foerster and his team will explore novel differentiated treatment approaches with disease modifying potential. It underlines Almirall’s commitment to help patients suffering from severe skin diseases achieve their dream of leading a healthy life.”

Enquiries

Grant Hill

Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768

G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk