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Biotech, Cancer Center Partner on Tumor-Targeting Peptides


Blaze Bioscience’s first product is based on a peptide derived from scorpion venom (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Blaze Bioscience, a biotechnology company in Seattle, is partnering with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, also in Seattle, to develop and commercialize drug candidates based on engineered peptides that better target tumor cells than conventional cancer drugs. Financial amounts in the agreement were not disclosed.

The Hutchinson Center is conducting research on optides — short for optimized peptides — engineered protein molecules that more precisely target cancer cells than most of today’s chemotherapy drugs. The better that cancer treatments can zero-in on tumor cells, the fewer the side-effects, often severe, that affect cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The Hutchinson Center lab headed by researcher Jim Olson is studying optides, which are often derived from natural substances, such as scorpion venom and sunflowers. The small size and stability of these natural peptides make them candidates for targeting mechanisms that bind more precisely to tumor cells, and can help guide chemotherapy drugs to these targets.

Optides are part of a larger Hutchinson Center initaitive, also led by Olson, to develop a technology called tumor paint that locates, binds, and illuminates cancerous growths, to improve the practice and success of cancer surgeries. Tumor paint techniques, says the center, are advancing to clinical trials, after having been shown potentially effective in the lab.

Under the deal, Blaze Bioscience will help the Hutchinson Center identify, develop, and commercialize optide drug candidates, and provide the center with access to Blaze’s technology. Blaze will have the option to exclusively license optide drug candidates that meet certain (but unspecified) criteria.

The Hutchinson Center will receive payments on each product developed from Blaze’s licenses, and take an additional equity stake in Blaze Bioscience. Any optides not licensed by Blaze, including those discovered under the agreement, will remain the property of the Hutchinson Center.

Blaze Bioscience and Jim Olson are hardly strangers. Olson was one of the founders of Blaze, which licensed the tumor paint technology for development from the Hutchinson Center. Olson continues as a member of the company’s board of directors. Blaze’s first product, BLZ-100, is based on an peptide variant called chlorotoxin, originally derived from scorpion venom, which in its natural state has been shown to bind to some tumors.

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