NEW YORK—Callisto Pharmaceuticals, a developer of new drug treatments for cancer, biodefence and other health threats, is licensing a new class of compounds called degrasyns from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for development as cancer drugs. The novel anticancer activity of these analogs is connected to their ability to selectively degrade key proteins involved in tumor cell proliferation and survival, including C-MYC, BCR-ABL and JAK2, which are all important targets for a wide range of tumors.
"[This class of drugs] represents a potential new important mechanism to induce tumor cell death," says Dr. Donald H. Picker, Callisto's executive vice president. "We plan to work closely with scientists at M. D. Anderson in the next year to bring forward a preclinical candidate for development in the clinic."
Those scientists are equally eager to get compounds out of the lab and into the field.
"What we are most excited about is this novel mechanism that causes the degradation of important cancer-causing and cancer-driving proteins in a way that appears to be specific for these few key targets," says Dr. Moshe Talpaz, one of the compound discoverers and a professor of experimental therapeutics at M. D. Anderson.
The acquisition of the licensing rights to degrasyns is important to Callisto not just for the development of new therapies and the income they could bring, but also because it significantly broadens Callisto's drug development pipeline, notes Dr. Gary S. Jacob, CEO and CSO at Callisto
"[This extends] our portfolio of anticancer drug candidates well beyond our previous focus on blood cancers to a very large category of solid-tumor cancers," Jacob says. "We anticipate developing this compound further which will strengthen our commitment to deliver breakthrough antitumor drugs to the global pharmaceutical industry."
Callisto is clearly confident in its potential to be a force in the marketplace, announcing not long after the licensing deal that it had completed a financing totaling approximately $5.14 million through a private placement involving common stock and warrants.
The proceeds from the financing will be used to bolster Callisto's strategic initiatives, many of which revolve around substantial clinical development activities in 2006 but which also include significant preclinical work, of which the degrasyns are a part. The other preclinical project the company is working is a drug candidate called Guanilib, which is being developed as a treatment for serious inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, including ulcerative colitis.