Cancer’s silver bullet

UK’s Argenta Discovery and PRECOS have launched a cancer drug discovery alliance.

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LONDON—Targeted toward stemming the rising tide of cancer in developing countries, British pharmaceutical firm Argenta Discovery Ltd., and contract research organization (CRO) PRECOS have joined forces to provide cancer drug discovery services and expertise on a fee-for-service basis.

The alliance, launched Feb. 19, enables the companies to undertake complete, integrated oncology-focused drug discovery programs from hit finding to in vivo "proof-of-concept."

The partnership could prove long-lasting if its optimistic goals are achieved.
Argenta's strength in chemistry is expected to combine with PRECOS' expertise in vivo, ex vivo and in vivo cancer models in finding a silver bullet to kill cancer cells.

"Despite considerable advances in the discovery, development and approval of new treatments for cancer during the past few years, it remains the second highest cause of death in developed countries—after heart disease and stroke," says Dr. Christopher Ashton, CEO of Argenta. "At the present time, death from cancer accounts for 7.6 million (or 13 percent) of all mortalities world-wide annually. However, cancer is on the increase in developing countries, so these numbers are forecast to grow with an estimated 9 million deaths from cancer by 2015—and 11.4 million deaths by 2030.

"Therefore, the discovery and development of novel and effective cancer treatments have the potential to address significant unmet medical needs and afford considerable commercial success to organizations successful in their oncology-focused R&D activities," Ashton continues. "The collaboration between Argenta and PRECOS will, therefore, help accelerate the drug discovery phase of this process. Although we have not formally collaborated before forming this strategic alliance, both organizations were aware of each other's outstanding reputations and expertise in cancer drug discovery. So it was a good opportunity to explore the possibility of a more formal partnership, for mutual benefit in the cancer drug discovery space."
The alliance was cemented at an opportune time for both organizations, he adds.

"PRECOS had been looking at ways of expanding its business. Argenta has been undertaking a number of sizeable, integrated cancer-focused contract drug discovery projects for clients, with the key element missing—patient-relevant in vivo models," Ashton says.

PRECOS, an oncology specialist in pre-clinical research and development, offers patient-relevant in vivo models which closely mirror the clinical situation for each aspect of cancer progression, encompassing pre-cancerous lesions, primary tumors and metastasis.

"PRECOS offers models of many primary tumors, at both subcutaneous and orthotopic sites, models of metastatic tumors at common secondary sites, syngeneic tumors in conventional rodent species, human tumor xenografts in immuno-deprived rodents," Ashton says. "PRECOS has access to primary human tissue and a large cell bank of human and rodent cancers."

PRECOS' scientists will assist in the selection and execution of appropriate analytical systems by a staged approach to in vitro studies, in vivo model development, subsequent in vivo mechanistic and therapeutic evaluations and post-study analyses.

"We have several ongoing cancer-focused contract research programs and projects in the pipeline, likely to benefit from PRECOS' support and know-how," Ashton says, declining to name possible business partners or disclose partnership financial terms. "But the agreement provides the opportunity for third parties to undertake integrated contract drug discovery projects on a transparent contract research basis (fully funded FTEs), with no further downstream royalties or milestones to be paid. All intellectual property is owned by the third party."

Susan Watson, scientific director of PRECOS, said in a statement that Argenta "provides first-class contract drug discovery services to the global pharmaceutical industry, especially in cancer drug discovery."

"We have been planning ways of expanding our business and this partnership with Argenta should help us to accomplish this goal," Watson said.

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