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SEATTLE—Privately held Blaze Bioscience Inc. and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a cancer research and prevention center and pioneer of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, have joined forces in a collaboration and option agreement. The partners are uniting to support the Hutchinson Center's Optides Discovery Program and advance drug candidates identified through the program.
Per the terms of the agreement, Blaze will provide development and commercialization guidance, in addition to access to its technology, for optide drug candidates during the discovery phase at the Hutchinson Center. In return, Blaze will have the option to exclusively license commercial rights to optide drug candidates that meet certain criteria.
For its part, the Hutchinson Center has received an additional equity stake in Blaze, and will receive additional payments for each product candidate that Blaze options. The Hutchinson Center will have full ownership of any optide candidates that Blaze chooses not to option, including any intellectual property developed or provided by Blaze during the discovery phase 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 discovery science with Blaze's industry expertise in drug selection and peptide drug development in efforts to speed the transfer of Hutchinson Center optides discoveries to the clinic," Ulrich Mueller, vice president of Industry Relations and Clinical Research Support at the Hutchinson Center, said in a press release. "This will further the Hutchinson Center's overarching mission to eliminate cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death."
The optides that the Hutchinson Center is developing are a new class of drug candidates based on knottins, which are small, tough peptides produced by plants and animals. These molecules can be instructed to bind only to certain types of cancer cells and disable them, and similarly can be attached to chemotherapy drugs in order to provide greater precision and spare healthy, non-cancerous cells. Researchers are seeking to identify optides with the potential to treat cancers such as brain cancer and tumors of the head, neck and throat.
"Collaborating on the Optides Program with the Hutchinson Center is a natural extension of our pipeline and utilizes our combined expertise," Heather Franklin, co-founder, president and CEO of Blaze, commented in a statement. "Our Tumor Paint technology program has maintained its aggressive schedule to advance BLZ-100 from license to clinic in just two years. Helping the Hutchinson Center quickly advance additional optide product candidates with efficient technology transfer followed by rapid entry into the clinic benefits both the Hutchinson Center and Blaze, but more importantly, may ultimately benefit patients."
BLZ-100, Blaze's first development candidate, is based on the first optide the Hutchinson Center discovered, and is currently under development for a variety of solid tumors. It is a variant of a peptide known as chlorotoxin, originally derived from scorpion venom, and is the basis of the Tumor Paint technology.
Tumor Paint technology offers "real-time, high-resolution intraoperative visualization of cancer cells," Blaze notes on its website. This can enable surgeons to more accurately distinguish where tumors begin and end to improve the odds of removing all cancerous tissue during surgery. Blaze originally licensed the technology from the Hutchinson Center in October 2011 in a patent and technology license agreement. Tumor Paint technology originated in the lab of Dr. Jim Olson, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Clinical Research Division, who worked with researchers at Seattle Children's and the University of Washington.
Blaze announced in February that the National Cancer Institute had awarded the company a $248,551 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research contract to study the Tumor Paint technology in dogs with multiple tumor types. The study is fully funded by the contract and is being conducted at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.