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Cancer Organizations, Biotech Partner on Drug Discovery

DNA strand (NSF)

(James. J. Caras, National Science Foundation)

Institute of Cancer Research and Cancer Research Technology in London, and the drug discovery company Nuevolution A/S in Copenhagen, are collaborating on identifying leads for new cancer treatments that act on a promising biological pathway. The agreement includes the option to co-develop therapies from candidates identified in the project, but financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

The collaboration focuses on the stress response pathway, considered a key factor in  cancer cell survival and understanding the body’s resistance to cancer treatments. The pathway is believed to activate proteins that promote apoptosis, or programmed cell death, but molecular interactions of among the cells is complex.

In the collaboration, Nuevolution will provide its Chemetics drug screening technology that will evaluate drug molecules tagged with unique DNA identifiers, from up to 1 billion small-molecule compounds. The screening will look specifically for compounds having potential chemical interactions with a key protein in the stress response pathway.

Nuevolution says the Chemetics technology combines high-throughput and high-content molecular screening with fragment screening, normally a much slower process. The company says its Chemetics system can test 100 million molecules against a single target in 2-3 days by one person, with nano- to micrograms of library and target materials.

Researchers at Institute of Cancer Research will provide scientific expertise related to the stress response pathway. The Institute’s researchers also expect to validate prototype drug molecules that emerge from the screening. The agreement, say the parties, is open-ended and can be extended to additional targets if needed.

The deal aims to build on a 4 November 2013 agreement between Cancer Research Technology — the commercialization arm of the charitable organization Cancer Research UK — and Nuevolution to screen small molecules that bind to specific target proteins, to find candidates that block the activity of targets considered difficult to treat with conventional methods.

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