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NeoRx 1st at Scripps Florida
SEATTLE—NeoRx in August became the first biotechnology company to enter into a research alliance with Scripps Florida, the newly established Palm Beach County, Fla., division of La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research. The focus of this collaboration is on discovering novel, small-molecule, multi-targeted, protein kinase inhibitors as therapeutic agents, such as those needed for cancer treatment.
"Protein kinases are clearly one of the most exciting target areas for the discovery and development of novel drugs in recent history," says Jerry McMahon, Ph.D. chairman and chief executive officer of NeoRx.
"Marketed small-molecule inhibitors of protein kinases such as Gleevec, Iressa and Tarceva are having an impact on the treatment of human cancers. In addition, multi-target protein kinase inhibitors, such as Sutent, which is being developed by Pfizer, has single-agent anti-cancer properties, due in part to simultaneous inactivation of multiple and distinct signal transduction pathways."
This multi-target effect has a more profound effect on a greater number of tumors in a greater number of patients than do single mono-specific and single mechanism protein kinase inhibitors, he says.
"For example, blocking both angiogenesis and tumor growth simultaneously with a single compound increases the probability that the tumor cell will not survive. This translates into a reduction in tumor burden and an effect on patient survival," McMahon says.
NeoRx will provide $2.5 million over 26 months, approximately $140,000 of which will be paid in 2005, to support the research at Scripps Florida. In addition, the company will have the option to negotiate a worldwide exclusive license to any compounds developed through the collaboration. For its part, Scripps Florida will identify, test and evaluate the preclinical activities of various chemicals as part of the collaboration.
"We are excited to have selected NeoRx as our first biotech partner at Scripps Florida and to move forward with this collaboration to identify potential cancer treatments," said Dr. Richard A. Lerner, president of Scripps Research.
The collaboration is led by Dr. Chris Liang, director of medicinal chemistry at Scripps Florida, whose work has focused on the treatment of cancer, arthritis and asthma. He previously served as director of chemistry while NeoRx's McMahon was president at biopharmaceutcial company SUGEN, While at SUGEN, Liang and McMahon were involved in the discovery and development of Sutent, which Pfizer—which has since acquired SUGEN-—currently has in registrational trials.
"In addition, Dr. Liang has designed computational methods to design chemicals to block various family members of the 518 protein kinases that are present in the human genome," McMahon notes.
One of the aims of the collaboration with Scripps is to broaden the cancer portfolio of NeoRx.