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The PI3 kinase (PI3K) enzymes play a significant role in AKT-mTOR intracellular signalling, a key pathogenic pathway in many cancers.

A PI3K drug discovery project was initiated in 1999 as a collaboration between The Institute of Cancer Research, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) and Yamanouchi Pharmaceuticals (now Astellas Pharma). By 2001 the collaborative research programme, led at the ICR by Professor Paul Workman, had resulted in the discovery of three series of class I PI3K inhibitors. Work led by the ICR showed proof of concept for anti-tumour activity in animal models.

The collaboration with Yamanouchi terminated in 2001, and in order to further the research on their novel PI3K therapeutics the ICR, the Ludwig and ICRF (now part of Cancer Research UK) formed the spinout company Piramed Pharma in 2003. Professor Workman, together with Professors Mike Waterfield (Ludwig) and Peter Parker (ICRF) were Founder scientists of the company. 

Subsequently a programme of collaborative research with the ICR led to the discovery of a number of inhibitors including PI-728 (GDC-0941) which was the first class I-selective PI3K inhibitor to enter phase I clinical trials. Piramed licensed its lead PI3K programme to Genentech in 2005, since which time phase II trials of GDC-0941 have been undertaken in 27 different countries. 

Piramed Pharma was subsequently acquired by Roche in 2008 for a total of $175 million.


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