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Cancer Research Horizons, Newcastle University extend strategic drug discovery alliance with Astex Pharmaceuticals


Cancer Research UK’s newly launched innovation engine, Cancer Research Horizons, and Newcastle University, have announced a further significant extension of their strategic drug discovery alliance with Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK) (‘Astex’), a biotechnology company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel small molecule therapeutics.

The alliance will continue to focus on the discovery of potential new cancer drugs with associated biomarkers, providing an innovative route to the development of more effective cancer medicines.

The agreement signed between the three parties will extend their current alliance by a further 5 years, which, if carried to term, will result in a continuous strategic drug discovery alliance spanning 15 years. Cumulatively this will be one of Cancer Research UK’s longest running translational collaborations with a relationship spanning nearly 20 years.

Not enough promising treatments are reaching cancer patients fast enough, with many discoveries stalling in the translational gap.

Building stronger bridges between academic researchers and industry is vital for making sure that there is a route for potentially useful compounds to be progressed to the next stages of drug development and eventually into treatments for patients.

The alliance brings together world-leading researchers in structural and cellular biology, and medicinal chemistry with the innovative small molecule fragment-based drug discovery and development capabilities of Astex, in order to speed up promising discoveries making it out of the lab and into the clinic.

The existing alliance portfolio includes multiple projects across target validation and early-stage hit-identification, with projects progressing towards the more advanced stages of pre-clinical development.

This multi-project alliance has proven to be a powerful approach to innovative drug discovery. The alliance has already resulted in the identification of an MDM2-p53 antagonist compound (ASTX295) which has entered clinical evaluation.  This builds on the success of a previous collaboration between Astex, Newcastle and Cancer Research UK on evaluating inhibitors of the Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor tyrosine kinase family, a key cancer target that ultimately led to the development of a first-in-class medicine.

Under the terms of the alliance agreement, Astex retains the right to an exclusive worldwide license to take the most promising projects forward into pre-clinical and clinical drug development. Cancer Research Horizons and Newcastle University are eligible to receive milestone and royalty payments on any compounds that make it into clinical development and onto the market.

The extension of this alliance is a testament to the long-running success of the efforts of all three partners over nearly 20 years of existing collaboration. We are excited to see that this alliance will continue on under our new organization, Cancer Research Horizons, which will provide the scale, agility and access to commercial expertise that any partner needs to accelerate promising discoveries out of the lab and into the hands of patients.”

Dr Iain Foulkes, Chief Executive Officer, Cancer Research Horizons

Dr David Rees, Chief Scientific Officer of Astex Pharmaceuticals (UK) said: “Our strategic alliance with Newcastle and CRT is an important and successful collaboration for Astex. We are excited to extend our alliance to discover novel compounds to take forward into development.”       

Steve Wedge, Chief Scientific Officer at Cancer Research Horizons and Professor of Stratified Cancer Medicine Discovery at Newcastle University, said: “This major academic-industry collaboration has had genuine success, and I am delighted to see it continue to build on the impressive track record of all partners. Risk-sharing partnerships like this allow us to bring together complementary expertise and enable us to maximize the development of our world-class research into cancer treatments.”



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