A new partnership between a niche cancer drug discovery company and biotech powerhouse Celgene could pave the way for the future of cancer drug discovery and delivery.
Celgene has agreed to pay $13m (EUR9.9m) upfront - $8m in equity and $5m for research funding– to use Presage Biosciences’ technology that allows for the direct comparison of multiple drugs or drug combinations in the same living tumour. The influx of cash will allow the company to grow by about 50% in the coming months, Presage president Nathan Caffo told in-Pharmatechnologist.com
The core idea of the platform is to deliver one drug to one zone in a tumour, and then another in another zone, and so on, in order to see which of the drugs are most effective, Caffo said. Often times when standard drug regimens are injected in combinations, “ we’ve found that many of the individual drugs are not contributing to efficacy,” and Celgene has recognized the promise of the platform to identify effective drug combinations, he added.
“Delivering drugs to the tumour doesn’t sound that complicated but it is very difficult to deliver a spatially constrained dose of drug,” and to gauge the specific response of a drug through intratumoural testing, Caffo said.
The technology is innovative because it allows in vivo pharmacologists to speed up the normal period of between 18 and 24 months to assess the biological efficacy of a drug in mouse models earlier and allows far more combinations and tumour types to be evaluated.
“We want to look at combinations of not only approved drugs but investigational drugs as well,” Caffo said, adding that companies may be able to use the platform to weed out particular drug combinations.
He also noted that in addition to its work with Celgene and Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Presage is looking for one additional partner by the end of the calendar year to investigate the utility of the platform.
“We’re not a CRO – we’re planning on limiting ourselves to three partnerships and have a real impact on innovative research,” Caffo said.
In addition to identifying combination treatments for cancer, the company ultimately hopes its platform will work as a diagnostic to evaluate patients’ unique responses to micro-doses of multiple cancer drugs.
The platform will be investigated in a clinical trial to attempt to demonstrate that when multiple drugs are delivered to a tumour, the local response correlates to a larger response in the patient, Caffo said. Through a grant with the US National Cancer Institute, Presage is looking to map out the feasibility of the platform in diagnostics.
Caffo added that companies could eventually use the platform for exploratory INDs, which in the past companies have been hesitant to use. The idea of using the technology to guide clinical drug development “is one we want to build out,” Caffo said, noting that the company is only looking for one partner on the project.