$1.6 million grant for cancer drug programme
EvoGenix offered $1.6 million grant for cancer drug program
July 5, 2006.
Antibody therapeutics company EvoGenix Limited (ASX:EGX) today announced that it had been offered a grant of $1.66 million to fast track development of its anti-cancer antibody, DMF10.
The grant will be provided over two years under the Australian Government's Commercial Ready program, a competitive merit-based grant program supporting innovative product research and development.
DMF10 is a hamster antibody which has shown strong evidence of activity against lung cancer and melanoma. The antibody attacks a structure on the surface of cancer cells that is not found on normal cells, creating a cancer therapy that is potentially both effective and devoid of side-effects. EvoGenix is using its proprietary technologies to develop a highly active form of the antibody that can be tested in humans and will not be rejected when used to treat cancer patients.
DMF10 was in-licensed by EvoGenix from the US University of Massachusetts in April this year.
In welcoming news of the award, EvoGenix managing director, Dr Merilyn Sleigh, noted the highly favourable properties of DMF10 as a potential cancer treatment, with evidence from initial work of its ability to stop lung cancers in their tracks. “DMF10 kills cancer cells directly, an unusual property for an antibody and one which should make it a relatively simple product to develop. The grant will allow us to accelerate work already in progress to prepare this exciting antibody for evaluation in patients.”
Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane congratulated EvoGenix on their Commercial Ready grant offer, saying the Government was committed to supporting cutting-edge Australian medical research. “EvoGenix's project has the potential to become a significant treatment in the fight against cancer,"Mr Macfarlane said. "Australia has a strong record of developing world-class medical therapies and the Government is pleased to support this latest promising project."
Lung cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the western world. It is responsible for four times as many deaths as breast cancer, with approximately 1 million new cases annually. This means that a successful therapeutic based on DMF10 could have a large potential market.
Melanoma is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. Australians have three times the risk of Europeans or Americans in being diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetimes.
DMF10 was discovered by Prof. Kenneth Rock of the University of Massachusetts Department of Pathology, and licensed from the University by EvoGenix earlier this year. The antibody has an interesting history – it is the product of a failed experiment. It was discovered during studies to assess the function of cells of the immune system (T cells). Instead of influencing the behaviour of the cells as expected, the antibody killed them directly. The researchers were quick to realise the anticancer potential of DMF10 and went on to confirm its tumour killing activity in a number of further studies.
DMF10 works by causing “programmed cell death” in the cancer cells, a process also induced by many chemotherapies. However unlike chemotherapy, DMF10 actions appear to be restricted to tumour cells with no influence on normal cells of the body. This should mean that effective doses of the therapy can be used without significant side effects.
EvoGenix Limited (ASX:EGX) has established leading technology capabilities for creating high value antibody therapeutics. The company exploits its capabilities through technology collaborations with partner companies, and by development in-house of a succession of wholly-owned antibody products.
Antibodies are natural
proteins designed to attack, block and remove unwanted
from the body. Antibodies are usually first made in mice, rats (or sometimes hamsters) and in their initial state are unsuitable for use in patients because the foreign protein is rapidly rejected by the human immune system.
The EvoGenix technology converts a research-stage antibody into a high potency therapeutic suitable for long term administration to patients. This is a key value-creating step in antibody development.
technology operates in two stages
• SuperhumanisationTM, a superior approach for modifying antibodies generated in animals so that they retain their essential therapeutic properties but appear “human-like” and will not be rejected by the immune system of patients receiving them.
• EvoGeneTM Optimisation, a highly efficient, novel process for fine-tuning antibodies and other proteins to increase their activity. The process involves making billions of copies of the antibody, each with one or two small changes compared with the original. The copies are then tested to find those with improved properties, for example more powerful attachment to a target to improve potency, or more effective cancer cell killing.
EvoGenix is progressively building company value by assembling a portfolio of revenues from technology collaborations using its unique technology capabilities. Collaborations with pharmaceutical major GlaxoSmithKline and Australia’s CSL Limited have been announced in the past 9 months.
At the same time EvoGenix is progressing its internal product pipeline, with current products aimed at the treatment of osteoporosis, lung cancer, melanoma and respiratory infections. Generally, these will be out-licensed prior to the clinical stage to meet the existing high demand for new antibody products in the pharmaceutical industry.