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Alliance will speed up drug development


A new collaboration between the University and industry aims to discover and develop new drugs to treat cancer.

Today a five-year strategic drug discovery alliance was announced between Astex Pharmaceuticals, a California-based company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel small molecule therapeutics, Cancer Research Technology Limited (CRT), the cancer-focused technology development and commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK and Newcastle University.

It will be led by Professor Herbie Newell, co-director of the Cancer Research UK Drug Discovery Programme at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University. He said: “This exciting alliance represents an innovative route to the development of more effective cancer drugs by combining the partners’ expertise and experience.

“The research will bring together pre-clinical drug and biomarker discovery approaches using molecular, genetic and clinical data. We want to identify new targets in cancer cells that can be treated with drugs, and ultimately develop medicines to take into clinical trials that will provide new ways to treat the disease and increase survival.”

During the five-year alliance, Astex will provide £1m funding annually to Newcastle University to support research across biology, chemistry, pharmacology and imaging at the NICR to identify and develop new cancer drugs and associated biomarkers to develop tests to determine which patients to treat and if new drugs are working.

Harren Jhoti, PhD, director and president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, said: “We are delighted to enter into this broad strategic drug discovery alliance with one of Cancer Research UK’s leading drug discovery centres as it allows Astex to access world-leading translational research in oncology.”

This new alliance builds on a previous collaboration between Astex, Newcastle and CRT on a key cancer target - a Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor (FGFr) which is about be tested in a clinical trial. Dr Jhoti added: “We look forward to discovering more new potential therapies for cancer patients.”

Astex will retain an option to an exclusive worldwide license to develop and commercialise pharmaceutical products from each alliance project.  CRT and Newcastle are eligible to receive development and regulatory milestone payments on exercise of the options, and on products that Astex takes into development and royalties on sales of products.

Dr Keith Blundy, Cancer Research Technology’s chief executive, said: “This major collaboration, which builds on the successes and impressive track record of all partners, will further develop Cancer Research UK’s world-class research into cancer treatments.

“Risk-sharing partnerships like this enable us to maximise the development of our basic research portfolio into new treatments for patients.

“The success of our existing network of partnerships is seen in our drug development pipeline which is the largest and most diverse of any academic partner worldwide with more than 30 cancer therapies in clinical development, and a further 175 discovery/pre-clinical projects in our portfolio, of which 55 are partnered with industry.”

Adapted from Astex/Cancer Research UK press release.

published on: 30 October 2012