The Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund (CPF), London Stock Exchange-listed investment company, BACIT Limited (BACIT), and drug discovery company, Sareum Limited (Sareum), have entered into an agreement to co-fund the further development of a class of cancer drugs called CHK1 inhibitors.
The candidate inhibitor originates from research in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, by scientists funded by Cancer Research UK working alongside Sareum’s researchers, and in collaboration with Cancer Research Technology (CRT).
A significant proportion of the further work funded by this new investment will be carried out at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), and it is expected that the drug candidate will be taken into clinical development at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
The rights to the preclinical programme have been licensed into CPF from CRT and the ICR. Under the terms of the deal, CPF obtains worldwide rights to the preclinical CHK1 inhibitor programme and is responsible, for future development and commercialisation, funded by CPF, BACIT and Sareum. CRT and the originating research partners, Sareum and the ICR, are entitled to an up-front fee plus success milestone and royalty payments. Financial terms of the licence are not disclosed.
The investment is the first by BACIT in a drug development or medical innovation project at the ICR.
CHK1 inhibitors control a cancer cell’s response to DNA damage. Blocking CHK1 could boost the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs by blocking repair of the DNA damage caused by these drugs, but without harming healthy cells.
The developers of the programme believe the candidate CHK1 inhibitor to be developed could potentially treat a range of cancers including pancreatic, bowel and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in combination with DNA-damaging chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy. The inhibitor could also potentially treat certain neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) types when dosed alone.
Ian Miscampbell, managing partner of Sixth Element Capital, the Manager of CPF, said: “This is the third investment made by the £50M CPF which CRT and the European Investment Fund launched in 2012 to bridge the UK funding gap between cancer drug discovery and early treatment development.
“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with BACIT and Sareum to fund this exciting development programme. This kind of funding collaboration will ensure that we can maximise the amount of money which can be committed through the CPF to develop new cancer therapies.”
Tom Henderson of BACIT, said: “This collaboration marks BACIT’s first investment in a drug development project, and we’re delighted to be involved in such an exciting programme with the potential to deliver benefits for patients with many different types of cancer.”
Dr Tim Mitchell, CEO of Sareum, said: “The funding which we are announcing today will enable the project to move swiftly towards, and potentially into Phase I clinical trials, the successful outcome of which should pave the way for the further development and commercialisation of a novel and broadly applicable cancer treatment.”
Professor Paul Workman, deputy chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “We’re delighted to be working with this innovative and powerful consortium to accelerate progress on the CHK1 inhibitor programme. The support of BACIT has been particularly welcome and this type of funding is absolutely essential if we are to deliver benefits from new molecularly targeted cancer drugs to patients.
“Our CHK1 inhibitor has exciting potential both as a cancer treatment in its own right and also as a drug to boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. All the partners are eager to expedite the drug candidate into clinical trials as quickly as possible because of the potential to treat large numbers of cancer patients with this approach.”
Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “We’re delighted that this investment will bridge the gap to develop a promising molecule so that it can be taken into clinical trials to give to patients – a huge step on the way to providing new options for patients and one that may have been delayed for years without the vital injection of cash and resources provided through the CRT Pioneer Fund.”