Abraxis snags Buck’s drug discovery technology

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LOS ANGELES—Abraxis BioScience Inc., announced the establishment of a global leadership team with newly created positions that strengthen the company's international senior leadership and build a worldwide commercialization platform for growth. Jean-Francois Gimonet, M.D., will join the company as Vice President, European Operations; Carlo Montagner has been named President, Oncology Pan Asia; Rick Click has been appointed as Global IT/Chief Information Officer; Lisa Guttman has joined as Vice President of Global Clinical Operations; and several additional members of the company's senior team now will have global responsibilities in their respective areas of expertise.
LOS ANGELES—Continuing a tradition of strong collaboration between the two organizations, Abraxis BioScience Inc., has announced an agreement with the Buck Institute for Age Research that provides Abraxis with the exclusive worldwide intellectual property rights for technologies designed to generate novel therapeutics and identify new drug discovery targets. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"These technologies were developed while Dr. Kayvan Niazi and I were directing the Discovery Translation Unit at the Buck Institute," notes Dr. Shahrooz Rabizadeh, director of molecular drug discovery at Abraxis. "The cell-based assays we developed at that time were used to identify small molecule anti-cancer therapeutics with pathway specific properties. Two of these, G6 and T9, were 'hits' from this program that are potentially lead compounds in our anti-cancer drug discovery program at Abraxis." As part of the agreement, Abraxis will have in-licensed all leading drug candidates discovered by Buck using these technologies, including T9 and G6.

Although discovered as part of the same program, G6 and T9 are quite different, points out Remy Gross, director of development at the Buck Institute. "T9 is a compound identified as a potential cancer immunotherapeutic," he notes, "while G6 is a compound identified by a different assay system as having unique properties as a p53 mimetic." The cell-based assays which identified G6 were generated to facilitate high-throughput identification of compounds that remediate the signaling activities of the tumor suppressor p53 in p53-dysfunctional cancer cells. The aim of this discovery platform, Dr. Rabizadeh notes, is to activate signaling pathways normally regulated by p53, and in a manner that is independent of p53 expression and is specific to p53-dysfunctional tumor cells.

More important, Rabizadeh says, is that the validated screens used to discover G6 and T9 have the potential to unearth additional anti-cancer compounds as well as immunomodulatory compounds targeting immune-based disorders.

"These proprietary cell-based assay systems are a natural fit for our proprietary nab technology platform and our proprietary natural product and synthetic drug discovery efforts," says Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, chairman and CEO at Abraxis and inventor of the company's nanoparticle albumin-bound (nab) technology platform.

"The biophysical properties of T9 and G6 are consistent with the nab technology, which delivers drugs to tumors by exploiting leaky junctions in angiogenic blood vessels," Rabizadeh explains. "For example, gp60 mediates transcytosis of nab-bound drugs across endothelial cells. SPARC secreted by tumor cells further recruits nab-platform-based drugs. SPARC is a matricellular protein that is upregulated by aggressive tumors but not normal tissues. By leveraging the nab platform, we have the opportunity to further improve the anti-cancer potential of these compounds by targeting their potency directly to the tumor site."

"This agreement is in line with the national trend toward facilitating the translation of basic research for clinical benefit," Buck's Remy Gross concludes. "There has historically been a large funding and knowledge gap outside of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries for the 'translation' of that first basic discovery to a product that will benefit society. Realizing the wealth of discoveries and knowledge at the basic research level, institutes such as ours, universities, the NIH and, lately, even the pharmaceutical community have begun to facilitate the development of novel basic research to attempt to solve the many health challenges we face today."

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