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Grzegorz Bulaj (center) and

associates Joanna

Gajewiak and Brad Green in their lab.


ommercial sponsored research amounts to as much as 20 percent of all research dollars that come to the University of Utah. But there are more important things than money in research partnerships.


It’s important that research partners find syn- ergy in an agreement, according to Grzegorz Bulaj, a faculty member at the U in medicinal chemistry and biology who is helping to discover new drugs for chronic pain, epilepsy and other neurological diseases. Bulaj has become a leading expert on conopeptides, or short strings of amino acids that compose miniature proteins and come from cone-snail venom.

Bulaj and his colleagues recently found a collaborator to help them achieve their goal to bring relief to patients. They formed a col- laboration with Johnson & Johnson Phar-

maceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (J&JPRD), which began the end of 2010.

J&JPRD wanted to learn more about some of the University of Utah’s library of cone snail venom in its investigation of the pain mecha- nism and its treatments. The collection was created by one of Bulaj’s mentors, Baldomero Olivera, another member of the U’s Biology Department and a native of the Philippines, which is where Olivera collected most of the venoms over the course of 30 years.

Both organizations, the U and J&JPRD, look forward to identifying peptides that may

True collaboration is

when partners share their strengths for a win-win gain.”

J&J and University of Utah collaborate on snail-venom research

help to find new analgesic drugs that could satisfy unmet medical needs. Bulaj said that conopeptides represent one of the most promising pathways. In addition, he noted this is not only a very interactive collabora- tion, but also a real-life experience for the team involved in this translational research.

The best commercial sponsored research agreements create synergies for all parties, where the sum is greater than the parts, Bulaj explained. J&JPRD and the U hope that they will enjoy the benefits of this collaboration.

“True collaboration is when partners share their strengths for a win-win gain,” Bulaj said.

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