Cancer Research Technology (CRT) – the development and commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK – and SV Life Sciences have today announced the launch of Artios Pharma, a new company formed to develop drugs targeting the DNA damage response in cancer.
Artios has licensed its two lead DNA damage response programmes from CRT and has signed a non-exclusive research collaboration agreement through which Artios will work with CRT Discovery Laboratories to progress the lead programmes, and discover and develop additional promising drug targets selected from Cancer Research UK’s portfolio of DNA damage repair research.
DNA damage response therapies target the way cancer cells repair damaged DNA. Faults in DNA repair lead to an increased risk of cancer and drive the growth of tumours. Blocking the repair mechanisms on which cancer cells rely has been shown to selectively kill them.
These DNA damage response targeted therapies have the potential to work alone or in combination with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy drugs.
The company’s lead programme targets the pol-theta molecule and builds on cutting-edge cell biology research from Professor Gillies McKenna’s and Dr Geoff Higgins’ laboratories at the Cancer Research UK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Biology.
The pol-theta molecule is thought to control DNA repair processes in certain tumours. Knocking out the target could remove a vital path relied on by the cancer cell, causing it to die. A second highly promising programme against an undisclosed target has also been licensed to Artios.
Artios is actively building a pipeline of promising first-in-class DNA damage response therapies from leading researchers in the field. Cancer Research UK’s extensive research base will provide the foundation for CRT to provide Artios with additional new molecular targets and establish collaborative partnerships with world-class scientists in the DNA damage response field.
Under the terms of the agreements, CRT will receive research funding into its Discovery Laboratories, equity in the company, and be eligible to receive milestone payments and royalties on projects advancing through Artios’ drug pipeline.
Led by SV Life Sciences, Artios has raised series A financing of £25million ($33.2million) from Merck Ventures, Imperial Innovations, Arix Bioscience PLC, CRT Pioneer Fund (managed by Sixth Element) and AbbVie Ventures.
Dr Keith Blundy, CRT’s chief executive officer, said: “We are pleased to have worked with SV Life Sciences to bring together the Cancer Research UK academic network, a portfolio of leading DNA damage response opportunities and the CRT Discovery Laboratories’ drug discovery platform to help build a strong development pipeline for Artios. This exciting development has enabled us to leverage the expertise of the Artios management team and financing from leading venture companies to help establish a company that has the potential to bring real impact to cancer patients.”
Kate Bingham, managing partner at SV Life Sciences, said: “Artios represents a unique opportunity to build a world-class DNA damage response pipeline through partnerships with leading DNA repair researchers in the UK and worldwide. We are delighted to have worked together with CRT to form this company and are pleased with the strong investor interest in Artios, reflecting the potential of DNA damage response. With the strength of their management team, Artios has the potential to disrupt the DNA damage response space and provide significant new therapies for cancer patients.”
Dr Niall Martin, CEO of Artios Pharma, said: “Targeting the DNA damage response is an exciting and promising field of biology with growing interest following the recent success of PARP inhibitors. DNA damage response drug products have the potential to become established as first-line treatments, either as single agents or for use in combination with many approved therapies. It is an ideal time for Artios to be entering the field as a DNA damage response-focused, independent biotech company. We’re delighted to welcome our world-class investors to the company and to announce our first partnership with Cancer Research Technology.”