EMD Serono, ICR and Wellcome Trust take aim at tankyrase inhibitors
ROCKLAND, Mass.—EMD Serono, Merck KGaA's biopharmaceutical division, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Wellcome Trust have established a co-development and license agreement for potential cancer treatments. The agreement builds on two independent research programs at the ICR and EMD Serono for the identification of inhibitors of tankyrase, an enzyme found in the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase family. Of those agreements, the drug discovery program at the ICR is funded in part by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.
“This agreement highlights the importance of translational funding, such as the awards provided under the Seeding Drug Discovery scheme, to reduce the risk of drug discovery programs so that they become attractive to partners who have the ability to bring a product to market,” Dr. Ted Bianco, director of Innovations at the Wellcome Trust, commented in a statement. “We welcome the strategic collaboration with EMD Serono, which brings together a world-leading academic drug discovery group and an industry partner with such a strong commitment to oncology, to give the program the best possible chances of success.”
Per the agreement, an ICR team led by Dr. Chris Lord and Prof. Alan Ashworth, and a research team from EMD Serono, will work to advance chemical compounds that have emerged from their tankyrase inhibitor programs towards the clinic. EMD Serono and the Wellcome Trust will be jointly funding the work, and EMD Serono will make milestone payments if certain regulatory and sales goals are met, in addition to royalty payments on net sales of products resulting from the agreement. Once the collaboration is completed, EMD Serono will assume full responsibility for the selected clinical development candidate.
“We are delighted to work together with Dr. Chris Lord and Professor Alan Ashworth. With this partnership, we aim to harness the already well-advanced tankyrase programs at both ICR and EMD Serono and hope to ultimately translate these into novel treatment options for cancer patients. We will build on a joint compound base of potent tankyrase inhibitors and will leverage both sites’ scientific knowledge about the ‘Wnt pathway’ that plays a major role in signal transduction for tumor growth,” Dr. Andree Blaukat, head of the Oncology Translational Innovation Platform at the biopharmaceutical division of Merck KGaA, said in a press release. “The interest of the Wellcome Trust shows its belief in our researchers’ scientific data. It also shows the importance of academia- industry collaboration models in pharmaceutical development to progress the most promising investigational compounds into clinics with the aim of bringing them to patients.”
“Tankyrase inhibitors provide a unique opportunity to target one of the most common characteristics of cancer cells - their dependency on the so-called ‘Wnt signaling’ pathway,” added Lord, team leader in the Division of Breast Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. “Both EMD Serono and the group at the ICR have already made notable progress in developing tankyrase inhibitors. Working with EMD Serono will allow us to jointly accelerate our program with the aim to ultimately make tankyrase inhibitors available to cancer patients.”
SOURCE: EMD Serono press release