Celgene, CRT Sign A R&D Deal On mRNA Translation Cancer

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Celgene has joined forces with Cancer Research Technology (CRT) to protect a source of oncology assets. The five-year agreement leaves CRT responsible for locating drugs that affect protein assembly as well as taking the drugs through phase 1.

New Jersey-based Celgene is putting out an undisclosed upfront fee to enter the agreement. In the future, Celgene also has the option to pay additional fees to acquire U.S. and/or global rights to drugs discovered in the collaboration with CRT. Celgene can activate the global rights after the candidate completes phase 1.

The drug discovery campaign is concentrated on mRNA translation, the process through which messenger macromolecules are decoded to drive the formation of proteins. Several oncogenes and tumor suppressors, such as RAS and TP53, influence translation machinery, and dysregulation of protein synthesis is a typical trait of cancer cells. Targeting the process could, as a result, interrupt the cancer from spreading.

Remarkably, the aberrant translation seen in cancer cells is divorced from the genetic composition of the tumor. This advances the idea that targeting mRNA translation will be effective despite the genetics of the tumor, therefore bypassing issues created by intratumor heterogeneity. CRT has not detailed how it intends to target the translation machinery. But, its parent company, Cancer Research UK, has funded studies into the eIF4F complex, a broadly researched target in the field.

About seven years ago, Eli Lilly put an eIF4FE-targeting antisense drug through early clinical tests, but no tumor response was seen. The drug came from Ionis Pharmaceuticals, which also started its own eIF4FE-targeting antisense trial, which also was discontinued.CRT is seeking to advance on these previous efforts.

“This is our largest drug discovery collaboration to date and represents a major endorsement of the reputation and scale of our capacity and expertise in both drug discovery and clinical development by a leading industry partner,” CRT CEO Iain Foulkes, Ph.D., said.

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