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EMBL creates spinout Elara for new drug apps
September 2006
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HEIDELBERG, Germany—EMBL recently announced a spinout company that will be called Elara Pharmaceuticals GmbH, dedicated to drug development and following up on promising small molecule leads that have shown powerful anti-cancer actions in screening experiments.
 
The start-up company was cre­ated through the efforts of EMBL scientists; EMBL's commer­cial affiliate, EMBL Enterprise Management Technology Transfer GmbH; and EMBL's venture vehicle, EMBL Ventures GmbH. Elara will receive seed funding from EMBL Ventures and has been granted exclusive license rights to selected discoveries made at EMBL.
 
"Elara draws on the skills and know-how of some of Europe's leading molecular biologists and the cutting-edge technol­ogy of EMBL's chemical biology core facility," says George Reid, a researcher at EMBL and new CEO of Elara. "The EMBL core facility, led by Joe Lewis, who is also a co-founder of Elara, has tested thousands of small mol­ecules in screens developed dur­ing our basic research activities, and identified several series with anticancer action.
 
Elara will now take the most promising of these compounds, further develop them and then evaluate their activity in animal models of various types of tumors, such as lung and breast cancer. Through creating a direct flow of information from basic research, preclinical development and application studies, we will greatly speed up the process of drug development."
 
Elara will follow up on promis­ing leads of molecules that block the signaling protein Aurora Kinase A, which is strongly over­expressed in cancer cells, and on inhibitors that affect estrogen receptor signaling, a process essen­tial in the development of breast cancer. Five lead series of bioactive molecules with different modes of action and diverse chemical struc­tures have already been identified from the two cancer-related sig­naling pathways.
 
"Traditionally, there is a signifi­cant gap between basic research and drug development", says Christof Antz, managing director of EMBL Ventures. "It often takes years to get from promising find­ings to a therapeutic approach. With Elara we aim to bridge this gap and create a direct pipeline from the Laboratory by way of animal testing to clinical develop­ment."

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