Across the pond: Small U.K. company teams with Genentech on PI 3-kinase drugs

PIramed Limited, a privately owned biotechnology company, has teamed up South San Francisco, Calif.-based Genentech to develop a new class of anti-cancer drugs. The drugs target PI 3-kinase, a key intracellular signaling enzyme involved in a broad range of cancers that plays key roles in cell cycle regulation, proliferation, survival, apoptosis and motility.

Jeffrey Bouley
SLOUGH, U.K.—PIramed Limited, a privately owned biotechnology company, has teamed up South San Francisco, Calif.-based Genentech to develop a new class of anti-cancer drugs. The drugs target PI 3-kinase, a key intracellular signaling enzyme involved in a broad range of cancers that plays key roles in cell cycle regulation, proliferation, survival, apoptosis and motility.
 
Although PIramed would not disclose figures for the up-front payment or specific milestone payments it might receive during drug development or product approval, the up-and-coming U.K. company does report that the deal in aggregate could amount to as much as $230 million. PIramed will also receive research funding and royalties on product sales in the event that commercialized products go to market.
 
PIramed will conduct preclinical research with Genentech, but Genentech will be solely responsible for clinical development, regulatory approvals, manufacturing and commercialization efforts. As part of the collaboration, PIramed can opt to commercialize certain products in territories outside of the United States on agreed terms.
 
"We believe this alliance with Genentech is one of the largest preclinical collaborations ever signed by a U.K. biotechnology company and is an important deal for PIramed," says Dr. Michael Moore, CEO of PIramed. "We believe it validates PIramed's leadership position in this novel approach to drug discovery. And the option to commercialize outside of the United States is important for PIramed as it provides the company with the opportunity of retaining significant upside out of a successful collaboration with Genentech."
 
Moore described this discovery collaboration as being advanced lead optimization. Promising oral inhibitors of the PI 3-kinase p110a isoform for cancer are already known, but the selection of a development candidate has not yet been made.
 
"PI 3-kinase represents an important new therapeutic target in oncology, and inhibitors have the potential to treat a range of common tumors affecting a large population of patients," notes Dr. David Knowles, chief scientific officer of PIramed. "Partnering the program at this stage provides the resources necessary to maximize this therapeutic opportunity."
 
The deal will also be a boon to PIramed's future portfolio as well, perhaps beyond PI 3-kinase.
 
"Basically the deal provides for a number of options for corporate development, including the capacity to add value to our PI 3-kinase p110d program for immune-inflammation and to bring on some earlier stage projects targeting oncogenic kinases other than PI 3-kinase, for which we have good leads," Moore reports. "It also obviates the need for more cash in the near- to mid-term."
 
PIramed is backed by JP Morgan Partners and Merlin Biosciences—the company received Series A funding and convertible loan notes of $17 million from both entities in July 2003 and August 2005—and is focused on drug discovery in oncology. The company currently focuses on new classes of small molecule anti-tumor agents known as signal transduction inhibitors which, as a class, may having significant impact not just on cancer treatment but also in accelerating the adoption of personalized medicine, according to PIramed officials.

Jeffrey Bouley

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