SEATTLE—Privately held Blaze Bioscience Inc. and the FredHutchinson Cancer Research Center, a cancer research and prevention center andpioneer of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, have joined forces in acollaboration and option agreement. The partners are uniting to support theHutchinson Center's Optides Discovery Program and advance drug candidatesidentified through the program.
Per the terms of the agreement, Blaze will providedevelopment and commercialization guidance, in addition to access to itstechnology, for optide drug candidates during the discovery phase at theHutchinson Center. In return, Blaze will have the option to exclusively licensecommercial rights to optide drug candidates that meet certain criteria.
For its part, the Hutchinson Center has received anadditional equity stake in Blaze, and will receive additional payments for eachproduct candidate that Blaze options. The Hutchinson Center will have fullownership of any optide candidates that Blaze chooses not to option, includingany intellectual property developed or provided by Blaze during the discoveryphase for that optide candidate. No financial details were disclosed.
"We are pleased to establish this collaboration with Blaze.It is structured to efficiently match the Hutchinson Center's superb discoveryscience with Blaze's industry expertise in drug selection and peptide drugdevelopment in efforts to speed the transfer of Hutchinson Center optidesdiscoveries to the clinic," Ulrich Mueller, vice president of IndustryRelations and Clinical Research Support at the Hutchinson Center, said in apress release. "This will further the Hutchinson Center's overarching missionto eliminate cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering anddeath."
The optides that the Hutchinson Center is developing are anew class of drug candidates based on knottins, which are small, tough peptidesproduced by plants and animals. These molecules can be instructed to bind onlyto certain types of cancer cells and disable them, and similarly can beattached to chemotherapy drugs in order to provide greater precision and sparehealthy, non-cancerous cells. Researchers are seeking to identify optides withthe potential to treat cancers such as brain cancer and tumors of the head,neck and throat.
"Collaborating on the Optides Program with the HutchinsonCenter is a natural extension of our pipeline and utilizes our combinedexpertise," Heather Franklin, co-founder, president and CEO of Blaze, commentedin a statement. "Our Tumor Paint technology program has maintained itsaggressive schedule to advance BLZ-100 from license to clinic in just twoyears. Helping the Hutchinson Center quickly advance additional optide productcandidates with efficient technology transfer followed by rapid entry into theclinic benefits both the Hutchinson Center and Blaze, but more importantly, mayultimately benefit patients."
BLZ-100, Blaze's first development candidate, is based onthe first optide the Hutchinson Center discovered, and is currently underdevelopment for a variety of solid tumors. It is a variant of a peptide knownas chlorotoxin, originally derived from scorpion venom, and is the basis of theTumor Paint technology.
Tumor Paint technology offers "real-time, high-resolutionintraoperative visualization of cancer cells," Blaze notes on its website. Thiscan enable surgeons to more accurately distinguish where tumors begin and endto improve the odds of removing all cancerous tissue during surgery. Blazeoriginally licensed the technology from the Hutchinson Center in October 2011in a patent and technology license agreement. Tumor Paint technology originatedin the lab of Dr. Jim Olson, a member of the Hutchinson Center's ClinicalResearch Division, who worked with researchers at Seattle Children's and theUniversity of Washington.
Blaze announced in February that the National CancerInstitute had awarded the company a $248,551 Phase I Small Business InnovationResearch contract to study the Tumor Paint technology in dogs with multipletumor types. The study is fully funded by the contract and is being conductedat the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.