A winning pair of partnerships

CRT pursues deals with Bayer Schering Pharma for treating gynecological and oncological diseases and AstraZeneca for broad oncology therapy

Jeffrey Bouley
LONDON—In the past couple months, Cancer Research Technologyhas signed deals with two big players in pharma. The first of them, in August,an agreement with German company Bayer Schering Pharma AG to evaluate newleptin antagonist peptides as potential experimental treatments initially inthe area of gynaecological diseases, including cancer; the second, inSeptember, an agreement with U.K. pharma AstraZeneca to take compoundAZD-3965—a first-of-its-kind experimental drug to potentially treat a range ofcancers—into clinical trials.
 
 
Cancer Research Technology is the development andcommercialization arm of charitable research organization Cancer Research U.K.
 
 
Under the terms of the August agreement, Bayer ScheringPharma will evaluate the ability of the peptides to switch off the activity ofa protein called leptin in a first evaluation phase. After this evaluationperiod, both parties have the option to enter into a license agreement for thetechnology. Reportedly, they have already agreed upon most of the major termsof that potential licensing deal.


The leptin antagonists were first developed at the BostonBiomedical Research Institute (BBRI) in the United States by Drs. Paul Leavisand Ruben Gonzalez, who have shown that the peptides are effective in blockingthe effects of leptin in several diseases.
 
Cancer Research Technology—throughits U.S. subsidiary, CRT Inc.—agreed with BBRI to market and commercialize thetechnology. The organization also provided support to help BBRI further developof the inhibitors, and the August agreement represents what Cancer ResearchTechnology calls "the successful outcome of these activities."
 
 
Leptin triggers the growth of different types of cells,including endometrial cells, and has been linked to angiogenesis; therefore,the parties hope that blocking leptin's action will offer a potential newtreatment for a range of cancers and gynecological diseases.
 
 
Larry Steranka, managing director of CRT, described theworking relationship with BBRI as "delightful" and says it is gratifying tohave worked alongside BBRI to now match its technology with "the rightcommercial partner to take forward the development of potential newtreatments." He adds that he is looking forward to the members of the CRT team"using our expertise and access to the international community to connect otherU.S. institutions with industrial partners and assist in the commercializationof their technologies."
 
Charles Emerson Jr., director of the BBRI, says that basedon this experience, he looks forward to working with CRT again to helpcommercialize future technologies.
 
 
As for the September deal with AstraZeneca, they are focusedon taking into early-phase clinical trials the compound AZD-3965, which targetsthe monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1), something the companies described as"essential" in cell metabolism. Blocking this transporter, they say, limitscancer cells' ability to generate energy, and decreases their ability tosurvive.


The AstraZeneca deal represents the sixth treatment to enterCancer Research U.K.'s Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) scheme, a jointinitiative between Cancer Research U.K.'s Drug Development Office and CancerResearch Technology, to advance promising oncology agents that pharmaceuticalcompanies do not have sufficient resources to progress through early-phase clinicaltrials.
 
 
"This clinical trial simply would not have been possiblewithout the CDP initiative and it demonstrates how Cancer Research U.K. andCancer Research Technology can work with industry to develop anti-cancer drugsthat would otherwise remain on companies' shelves," says Dr. Ian Walker,licensing manager for clinical partnerships at Cancer Research Technology. "Wewill continue to work to set in place future similar agreements with industrywith the aim of licensing more drugs to provide new treatments for patients."
 
 
Noting the value of forming deals with non-corporateentities at times, Les Hughes, global vice president of cancer research atAstraZeneca, says, "AstraZeneca is committed to the discovery and developmentof new, targeted anti-cancer therapies to improve the lives of cancer patients,but if we are going to be successful in delivering new treatments for cancerpatients, it will be important for charities, academics and industry to workcollaboratively."
 
Cancer Research UK will fund the Phase I/IIa clinical trialof up to 60 patients to start in 2011. The trial will be managed by its DrugDevelopment Office. The lead clinical trial center will be Newcastle's CancerResearch U.K. Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre Network.
 
 
Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca can decide ifit wishes to develop the drug further based on the data results at the end ofthe Phase I/IIa trial. If not, the rights will be given to Cancer ResearchTechnology to secure an alternative partner. Regardless, Cancer Research U.K.and Cancer Research Technology will receive a share of any future revenuesgenerated by the drug should it go to market.
 
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CRT and ValiRx sign licensing deal to develop prostatecancer treatment


LONDON—Cancer Research Technology also signed a deal toprovide biotech company ValiRx PLC with the global rights to develop apromising compound to treat hormone-resistant prostate cancer.
 
 
The compound, VAL 201, has been shown in preclinical testsin mice to stop growth of tumors that have been unresponsive to hormonetreatments. VAL 201 blocks genes which can cause prostate cancer to develop.The compound has been shown to be effective in treating mice with breast andprostate cancer and is now rapidly progressing towards the first clinicaltrials in patients.
 
 
Under the terms of the deal, ValiRx has exclusive rights touse the compound to treat, prevent and diagnose cancer and other diseases.Cancer Research Technology will receive milestone payments throughout the developmentand commercialization of the compound and royalty payments for potentiallicensed treatments.
 
 
Currently, prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongstmen with 36,000 men being diagnosed and around 10,150 deaths each year in theUnited Kingdom. Of all men with advanced stage prostate cancer, hormone therapywill work for between eight and nine out of every 10. But many men will becomeresistant to the treatment at some stage. This does not appear to be related tothe length of time a man is receiving treatment.
 
 
"This partnership demonstrates CRT's ability to maximise itsbroad network, having identified and licensed this project from Naples, andthen in turn partnered it for further preclinical and clinical development withValiRx," says Dr. Phil L'Huillier, Cancer Research Technology's director ofbusiness management. "We will follow further trials to test its suitability asa new treatment to potentially increase survival from this disease with greatinterest."
 
Under the terms of the license with Cancer ResearchTechnology, ValiRx will be responsible for performing the preclinicalregulatory development of VAL 201 to prepare the compound for early clinicaltrials in patients. ValiRx will manage the commercialization of potentialtreatments after clinical trials. 

Jeffrey Bouley

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