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Case studies

The Enterprise Unit has many industrial partners from major global pharmaceutical companies to local, small to medium-sized enterprises and works with them to transform ideas into new products for the benefit of cancer patients.

Drug discovery collaboration with Astex

In 2003 The Insitute of Cance Research, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and Astex Pharmaceuticals entered into a three-year drug discovery collaboration to identify drug candidates inhibiting the cancer target PKB. This involved our award winning cancer therapeutics team and was led by Dr Michelle Garrett. It was highly successful and two drugs from it are being progressed through clinical development, one by Astex and the other with AstraZeneca.

Biomarker studies with Enzon Pharmaceuticals

Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are envisioned to be crucial to the optimal clinical development of molecularly targeted drugs. CTCs reflect the molecular features of cells within tumour masses and so provide  live information about the patient’s disease status.They allow patient selection to maximise patient benefit and accelerate anti-cancer drug development.  This has been well demonstrated by Professor Johann de Bono’s team who conducted an analysis of CTCs during a phase I trial of EZN-4176, a drug developed by Enzon Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of castration resistant prostate cancer (British Journal of Cancer 2013; 109: 2579–2586).

Olaparib collaboration with KuDOS Pharmaceuticals

A decade ago Professor Alan Ashworth’s team collaborated with the UK biotechnology company KuDOS. Together they identified BRCA-mutated patients as likely to benefit most from their novel PARP inhibitor Olaparib (Nature 2005; 434(7035): 917–921). This work has led to a standard for the development of such drugs. Now patients are directly benefiting after the European Medicines Agency accepted AstraZeneca’s marketing application for the use of Olaparib in BRCA mutated patients.

Development of PI3kinase inhibitors in collaboration with Genentech

In 2003, the ICR, the Ludwig Institute and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund formed Piramed, a spinout company created to research and commercially develop PI3kinase (PI3K) inhibitors. Piramed licensed one PI3K inhibitor compound to Genentech and this is currently progressing through clinical trials. Roche subsequently bought Piramed for a total of $175 million, illustrating the major commercial impact of this spinout company established by ICR.

Improved diagnostic ultrasound imaging technique licensed to Zonare

In 2006, a collaborative project between the ICR and Zonare Medical Systems developed software that provides added functionality for diagnostic ultrasound imaging via elastography – a technique that may lead to significant improvements in cancer diagnosis.

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