Almac Discovery recently announced a £13millionpartnership with the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) atQueen's University Belfast to accelerate cancer-focused drug discovery inNorthern Ireland.
As part of the partnership, Almac have announcedthe scheduling of a Phase I clinical trial in ovarian cancer involving what is reportedly thefirst novel cancer drug fully developed in Northern Ireland: ALM201. This drug is a candidate derived from anatural protein originally discovered by a Queen's School of Pharmacy researchteam and developed by Almac Discovery inCraigavon. It is an anti-angiogenic drugwhich works by preventing the growth of new blood vessels thereby inhibiting tumourgrowth.
ALM201, unlike most other anti-angiogenictherapies on the market, is said to work via an entirely new mechanism "and consequentlyhas the potential to treat a wider range of patients than currently possible,including those resistant to existing therapies."
The partnership now comes out of successfully completed preclinical studies and a "significant milestone" as the drug has gets ready to enter Phase 1clinical trials as early 2014. The three-year trial willbe led by Dr. Richard Wilson, Director of the Northern Ireland Clinical TrialsUnit at Queen's and managed by Almac Discovery. It will be run from Belfast andtwo other UK-based clinical trial centers.
In addition, the partnership announcement also involves the formal launch of theAlmac/CCRCB joint program in cancer drug discovery, which will bring scientistsfrom Almac and researchers from the CCRCB together to translate researchdiscoveries into treatments for patients.
As part of this partnership, Almac's vice president of discovery chemistry, Prof.Tim Harrison, has been appointed inaugural McClay Chair of Medicinal Chemistryand will head up the collaborative program.
"Almac and Queen'shave already demonstrated through the creation and development of ALM201 howvaluable and productive such a world class partnership between academia andindustry can be," said Alan Armstrong, CEO of the Almac Group. "By integrating academic and clinical researcherswith experienced industrial scientists, we have the means to accelerate cancerfocused drug discovery towards the ultimate goal of improving patient care."
Ateam of 17 Almac scientists will be seconded to Queen's for three years and thecombined unit will create a coordinated drug discovery and developmentpipeline, he said, and "Resultant products will then continue their development journey withother appropriate partners towards patient-enriched trials and ultimatelycommercial production. This single-location integrated approach puts theinitiative at a distinct advantage and reflects Northern Ireland's aim tocompete more effectively as a modern knowledge based economy."
"Queen's and Almac are recognisedinternationally as being leading innovators in the world of drug discovery andcancer research," added Prof. James McElnay, acting president and vice chancellor of Queen's. "Today's announcement,therefore, heralds an important new era for patients. Our newest collaborationwill also result in an increase in the development of potential new therapeuticapproaches for patients, and accelerate the process in which treatments movefrom the lab bench to bedside."
Speaking during a visit to the CCRCB, Minister ofEnterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster said: "Almac is a highlyrespected and successful drug development company focusing on innovative cancertreatments that have global potential. This significant investment in R&Dwill enhance collaboration between academia and industry, ensuring that theinvestment is maximized, that research is effectively commercialized and thatultimately, enhanced treatment solutions are made available to cancer patients.The fact that such ground-breaking research is taking place here in NorthernIreland is something that we should be extremely proud of. It will reinforceour position as a leader in research and development for the health and lifesciences sector."