As part of the collaboration, CRT and Medivir will conduct a two-year research programme to optimize and develop small molecules targeting the cell surface protein ADAM8, which has been linked to tumour survival, cell invasion and metastasis.
Under the terms of the agreement Medivir receives an exclusive, global license to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise ADAM8 inhibitor drugs resulting from development. CRT receives an upfront payment and future success milestones as well as royalties on sales which are shared with the academic collaborators.
Blocking ADAM8 in mice with pancreatic cancer prevented the spread of the disease, shrunk tumours and significantly extended lifespan. This is thought to be due to its involvement in cell adhesion, cell migration, inflammation and the growth of blood vessels – key processes that many cancers rely on for growth and development. High levels of the protein have been linked with more aggressive tumours including those in pancreatic, brain, prostate, lung, head and neck, and kidney cancers.
This research will be led by Professor Jörg Bartsch as head of the TransMIT-Project Division for Research in Neuro-Oncology at TransMIT GmbH, located at Marburg University in Germany, in collaboration with Medivir. Prof. Bartsch previously worked at King’s College London where the initial patent application was filed by King’s College IP and Licensing team. Further proof of concept studies were funded by Cancer Research UK at King’s College.
Professor Bartsch said: “We are very glad and excited to see this collaboration come to life. The synergy of expertise between Medivir and our Laboratory forms an excellent platform for successful exploration of this first-in-class approach to targeted therapy against ADAM8. This really is ‘bench-to bedside’ research at its best.”
Niklas Prager, Medivir’s CEO, said: “This collaboration is a demonstration of our commitment to advance oncology drug discovery at Medivir and we are pleased to partner with such a renowned institution such as Cancer Research UK, and with Professor Bartsch, a leading researcher in the field.”
Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology’s chief executive officer, said: “Medivir’s significant expertise in protease inhibitor design coupled with CRT’s proven track record in drug development will hopefully pave the way for an exciting new class of cancer drugs. Exploratory studies indicate that ADAM8 is an attractive target across many types of cancer, and potentially other diseases driven by inflammation, and we look forward to further exploring that promise through this innovative collaboration.”