Enterprise Unit regularly works with commercial partners who can provide the resources and complementary expertise required to take our research findings through development, manufacture and into the clinic for the benefit of patients worldwide.
Developing PPM1D inhibitors with Antisoma Ltd
The ICR entered into a research collaboration with Antisoma Ltd in 2008 to develop novel inhibitors of the phosphatase drug target PPM1D, an enzyme that plays a role in blocking a natural tumour suppressing pathway. Inhibiting its function could therefore, be a significant new approach to controlling cancer. The collaboration is lead by Dr Spiros Lindardopoulos and involves two teams: one in the ICR Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre and one from our Cancer Research UK for Cancer Therapeutics.
A drug discovery project with AstraZeneca
In 2008, the ICR entered into a drug discovery collaboration with AstraZeneca to develop inhibitors of a protein that helps tumour cell grow. This protein is part of a group of protein called chaperones that are key to tumour cell survival, and therefore, are ideal anti-cancer targets. The ICR has already run a successful collaboration to look for drugs that can inhibit another chaperone target, Hsp90. Drugs from our Hsp90 programme are now being tested in the clinic by Novartis. The ICR’s involvement in the Astra Zeneca collaboration is lead by Professor Paul Workman, Centre Director and Professor Julian Blagg, Head of Medicinal Chemistry both of the Cancer Research UK Centre for Therapeutics.
Developing novel MRI technology with Biotronics3D Ltd
Professor Martin Leach’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Magnetic Resonance Research Group at the ICR has developed software to analyse tissue blood supply and leakiness of vessel, in images taken by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning. The information produced is extremely valuable when studying cancer patient response to a drug, and can also be used to aid diagnosis and disease management. During the last year, with seed funding from the Heptagon Fund, the group has been able to collaborate with a software development company called Biotronics3D. The purpose of this collaboration is to refine the software, make it user friendly (to make it widely available) and to seek regulatory approval. Biotonrincs3D was also able to integrate this technology with its own product, a suite of advanced tools for image analysis, which offers the background structure to make the software more accessible in a clinical workflow. The product was launched at The European Congress of Radiology in Vienna.
In 2005 the ICR and The Royal Masden established a collaboration with Elekta to evaluate and support further development of Elekta’s advanced technologies for radiation treatment delivery and verification. This work has recently led to clinical implementation of Volumetics Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) at The Royal Marsden. VMAT is applied in very complex situations where the localisation of the tumour requires tailored intensity modulated treatment. The collaboration also provides an opportunity to evaluate the potential of Autobeam, treatment planning software invented by Dr James Bedford of the Joint Physics Department, for which we are now actively seeking a commercial partner. Autobeam is now in routine clinical use and further improvements are aimed at generating high quality plans for fast efficient treatment delivery.
Working with the Wellcome Trust.
In 2002 the ICR began a drug discovery programme funded by The Wellcome Trust, to develop novel inhibitors of the enzyme BRAF. Mutations in the B-RAF gene that codes for this enzyme are found in skin and colon cancers, as well as other cancer types. The partnership was a great success and resulted in the identification of two orally active series of compounds that are ready to be tested in the clinic. The Wellcome Trust are now actively looking for a commercial partner to licence these compounds. The BRAF team was lead by Professor Caroline Springer of the Cancer Research-UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics and Professor Richard Marais of Cancer Research-UK Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology. In 2008 the same team, together with Dr Janine Erler from our Cancer Research UK Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology, was successful in winning another award from The Wellcome Trust through its Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative. This time the funding was awarded to develop inhibitor of the enzyme LOX (lysyl oxidase, which is involved in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body). The Enterprise Unit has played an active role in all these projects, both in the preparation of applications and in participating in the steering committees that run the programmes.