The Cancer Research Technology Pioneer Fund CPF today has made its first investment in a collaboration with the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, to develop a promising class of drugs called MPS1 inhibitors to treat cancer.
Cancer Research Technology (CRT), Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm, and the European Investment Fund (EIF) launched the £50m CPF to bridge the UK funding gap between cancer drug discovery and early treatment development and appointed Sixth Element Capital to manage the fund.
Today’s investment, the first made by the CPF, will build on initial research by Cancer Research UK-funded researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)*. Investment by the CPF will boost the ICR team, allowing them to accelerate the development of MPS1 inhibitors, and will fund early clinical trials of potential drugs developed through the collaboration.
MPS1 belongs to a family of proteins called mitotic checkpoint kinases, responsible for correctly organising cell division. When these proteins are faulty, they cause defective cell division, fuelling the disease. Previous studies have shown that MPS1 is present in high levels in many different types of cancers including breast and prostate. High amounts of the protein have also been linked to increased genetic instability in tumours – making MPS1 an attractive target for anti-cancer drug discovery.
Ian Miscampbell, managing partner of Sixth Element Capital, said: “We’re delighted to announce the first project to be funded by the CRT Pioneer Fund and to be collaborating with the ICR team.
“This investment will pave the way for potential new cancer drugs to be taken into Phase I clinical trials. If the first studies are successful we’ll seek industry partners to further develop and commercialise these drugs.”
Professor Paul Workman, deputy chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research and director of its Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit, said: “We are delighted to work with the CRT Pioneer Fund to help accelerate progress on the exciting MPS1 inhibitors we have discovered at the ICR. This type of funding is absolutely essential to bridge the innovation gap so that patients can benefit quickly from the range of promising new molecularly targeted cancer drugs that we are discovering for personalised medicine.”
Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of Cancer Research Technology, said: “It’s fantastic news that this key investment from the CRT Pioneer Fund is already enabling scientists to take steps to bridge the development gap in UK drug discovery.
“Without this vital investment, development of these promising compounds might have been delayed for years. We’re delighted that this collaboration will progress these new promising treatments from the laboratory right through to completion of the first clinical trial – accelerating research to bring potential new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.”
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Target validation work at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the ICR and the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR led to the initiation of a drug discovery programme in Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Therapeutics Unit. This programme was aimed at identifying novel, orally efficacious, highly selective small molecule Mps-1 inhibitors.