25 June 2013
New investment coupled with a major award from the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, will provide funding for over two years to conduct lead optimisation and clinical candidate generation on inhibitors against a specific deubiquitinase target, demonstrated to play a key role in the progression of prostate cancer.
CellCentric is delighted to confirm receiving a major award from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board’s BioMedical Catalyst Fund. This is a highly competitive competition, administered alongside the Medical Research Council, which provides support to innovative small and medium sized enterprises. The award has triggered significant additional funding from Morningside Venture Investments and Providence Investment Company, as well as from Rainbow Seed Fund.
CellCentric’s scientific foundation is in epigenetics, and the company has pioneered in identifying new therapeutic targets and small molecule inhibitors for cancer. One early programme concerning a histone methyl transferase inhibitor, was partnered and licenced to Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
The company is now concentrating its own efforts on an unexplored drug target that is shown to be critical in prostate cancer. The deubiquitinase (DUB) enzyme controls androgen receptor signalling, key particularly in the most aggressive forms of the disease. Early results suggest that the approach could overcome many of the drug resistance mechanisms which limit the clinical benefit of recently approved therapeutic agents.
The new funding will be used to generate further lead series inhibitors and optimise those already identified. CellCentric has developed a number of proprietary medicinal chemistry screening formats that are enabling success. Drug discovery is under the stewardship of Dr Neil Pegg (Research Director) and Dr Anthony Brown (Scientific Director), who previously took similar staged work through to success at Piramed Pharma (acquired by Roche, a greater than 8 times return on investment). They are now based in a new office opened in Oxford.
Dr Will West, Chief Executive of CellCentric, said “We are delighted with the endorsement of the BioMedical Catalyst award. The further funding that should see us progress our main programme through to significant clinical and commercial value. The application of epigenetics to novel drug discovery is now maturing beyond just the promise of a new scientific area.”
CellCentric is a biotechnology company, founded with Prof Azim Surani FRS of University of Cambridge, and one of the earliest pioneers in epigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms play a key role in regulating cell fate. When these processes go awry, disease states can be induced, including most notably cancer.
CellCentric has identified and investigated nearly 50 enzymes associated with epigenetic regulation, and has carried out early drug discovery on six. One of these, an arginine methyltransferase programme was licenced to Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The current priority is a deubiquitinase target that plays a central role in the progression on prostate cancer, and notably the most aggressive castrate resistant form. The company operates a capital efficient outsourced model, collaborating with multiple leading academic centres in Europe and the US, and through contract research organisations.
About the Technology Strategy Board
The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.
About the Biomedical Catalyst
This joint £180m Technology Strategy Board and Medical Research Council programme offers funding to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and academics looking to work either individually or in collaboration to develop solutions to healthcare challenges. The Biomedical Catalyst accepts innovative ideas from any sector or discipline that demonstrate the potential to provide significant positive healthcare and economic impact. Any UK SME or academic undertaking research and development, either individually or in collaboration, may apply; applications are accepted on a rolling basis for assessment by independent experts.