Sareum Holdings plc (AIM: SAR), the structure-based drug discovery and services business, and EiRx Therapeutics plc (AIM: ERX), the healthcare company specialising in the control of programmed life and death of cells (apoptosis), are pleased to announce they have entered into a collaboration to discover and develop novel cancer therapies.
The collaboration will harness the two companies' highly synergistic capabilities in drug discovery biology and chemistry to accelerate the development of new cancer drug candidates with the intention of licensing compounds after initial clinical trials.
EiRx has discovered novel gene targets that control apoptosis and cancer cell survival, using its proprietary target discovery and validation platform, ALIBITM. Under the collaboration, 5 of these targets will be brought together with Sareum's expertise and high-throughput processes in protein expression, structure determination and medicinal chemistry. The skill sets of the two companies combine with the aim of rapidly and efficiently discovering novel chemical entities for development into effective cancer therapies.
The collaboration represents a significant milestone for both Sareum and EiRx. It enables both companies to complement their respective service-based businesses with the opportunity to generate a pipeline of potential drug candidates. Payments and royalties arising from any licensing deals through this collaboration will be shared between Sareum and EiRx.
Commenting on the agreement, Sareum's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tim Mitchell, said: "I am delighted to have entered into this agreement which allows Sareum and EiRx to pool our complementary skills in structure-based drug discovery and apoptosis biology in a collaborative framework structured to rapidly discover cancer drug candidates that we hope will add significant value to both companies and ultimately to benefit cancer patients."
Commenting on the agreement, EiRx's Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ian Hayes, said: "Many types of cancer still remain hard to treat effectively because they are resistant to conventional drug therapies. The ability of the cancer cell to evade death, by apoptosis, appears to be central to this resistance. At EiRx we have applied our knowledge of apoptosis to find points of intervention for the design of new, selective and more potent therapies for these cancers. The structure-based approach to chemistry employed by Sareum perfectly complements EiRx's apoptosis and cancer biology. I am looking forward to working with Sareum and bringing these new cancer therapies to the clinic."
For further information:
Sareum Holdings +44 (0) 1223 497700
Tim Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer
EiRx Therapeutics plc +44 (0) 1260 226529
John Pool, Chairman
Buchanan Communications +44 (0) 20 7466 5000
Mark Court, Mary-Jane Johnson
About Sareum Holdings plc
Sareum Holdings plc is a structure based drug discovery business headquartered in Cambridge, UK. The Company was formed in August 2003 to discover new drugs for the treatment of cancer and inflammation and to provide a range of drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical industry. Sareum's unique approach aims to halve the time it takes to discover new drug candidates.
Structure-based drug discovery involves the determination of a disease causing protein's three-dimensional structure. Once the structure is known, novel chemical entities are designed to 'lock-in' to the protein with the aim of reversing or arresting a disease's progression.
Sareum's approach to structure based drug discovery is to produce multiple recombinant proteins primarily through a baculovirus expression system; determine their structure using x-ray crystallography; and then use the Company's computational chemistry expertise to create virtual, focused libraries of new chemical entities designed to interact with the target protein. Sareum then uses its high-throughput medicinal chemistry platform to rapidly synthesise these molecules and develop the most promising into potential drug candidates.
Sareum offers its accelerated drug discovery capabilities on a fee basis to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and has recently signed collaborative agreements with Inpharmatica Ltd. and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Sareum also intends to license out its internally generated drug candidates at the Phase I or Phase II clinical trials stage.
Sareum joined the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange in October 2004 and trades under the symbol SAR.
EiRx Therapeutics plc is a healthcare company headquartered in Cork, Ireland. The Company was formed in 1999 to discover new therapeutic treatments for cancer, inflammation and degenerative diseases and to provide its specialist capabilities to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. EiRx specializes in the biology of apoptosis (cell death).
EiRx's core technology is a series of novel, validated drug targets and candidate molecules, which modulate apoptosis in cancer and inflammatory disease. EiRx has a unique insight into the mechanisms underlying a cell's decision to die. Deregulation of apoptosis occurs in many diseases, most notably cancer, so mechanisms for understanding/controlling apoptosis may be applied to the development of treatments. EiRx is also interested in the discovery of novel targets and drug candidates for the treatment of neurodegeneration and retinal degeneration through founder Prof. Cotter's academic research at University College Cork.
EiRx, employing its proprietary Target Discovery & Validation platform, ALIBI TM, has implicated novel genes in the control of apoptosis. Patent applications have been filed covering all validated kinases, GPCRs and enzymes, a number of which have been implicated in the PI3K/AKT and GSK/Wnt survival pathways. EiRx is advancing these targets through drug discovery in-house and with the help of its developmental partners. Additionally, EiRx have recently announced a collaboration, valued at up to $4.7M per target, total $18.8M depending on results, to license a number of targets to OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
EiRx joined the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange in January 2004 and trades under the symbol ERX. For more information visit www.eirx.com
About Apoptosis and Cancer
The epidemiology of cancer has been viewed historically as a disease caused by uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells which eventually consume the host. Only over the past few years, and with the appreciation of the significance of apoptosis, has this view been challenged. We now know that within every cell of the body there is a struggle taking place between the decision to live and die. Typically, and in healthy non-transformed cells, their continued survival is dependent on continuous stimulation from their environment through receptor-mediated contact with other cells or through growth factors. However, when a cell becomes ineffective in its job, infected with virus or begins growing in a wrong location within the body, the survival signals become abrogated and the cell will trigger the genetic program of apoptosis, leading to its self-destruction and disappearance. Through this mechanism, the homeostasis and structured environment of the body is maintained.
In transformed cells like those found in a cancer, the situation is different. The survival signals or apoptosis-triggering signals are damaged by a mutation in the cells' DNA, such that the cell becomes independent of its environment and refractory to signals within the cell that should tell it to commit suicide. Since cells are continuously being formed, any delay in their death will result in a large increase in their number, thus the formation of a tumour.
Drugs that are designed to take advantage of this knowledge offer the potential to effectively treat cancer types without also damaging the body's normal healthy cells. An example of one such drug in development is Tarceva, developed by OSI Pharmaceuticals and Genentech. Tarceva inhibits a survival signal in cancer cells mediated through the growth factor receptor, EGFR. In 2001, OSI Pharmaceuticals announced an agreement, with Genentech and Roche to co-develop and commercialise Tarceva.