The preclinical development experts at Sprint Bioscience started the second half of the year by signing the company’s largest licensing agreement to date in a deal concerning drug candidate Vps34. The company is now initiating marketing for the next project in line. BioStock spoke to the company’s Chief Scientific Officer, Martin Andersson, to find out more about the project.
Huddinge-based research company Sprint Bioscience focuses on the development of preclinical drug projects in cancer treatment in particular. Where many other drug developers have a strategy to reach licensing agreements with a larger partner during the clinical development phase, Sprint Bioscience’s strategy is to secure licensing agreements in their projects much earlier than that.
So far, the company has secured three out-licensing deals that have a total potential value of approximately 747 million USD, plus royalties. On Monday, the company announced that it is initiating marketing of the next project in its development portfolio: the cancer drug program DISA.
Facilitating the identification of cancer cells
DISA targets the protein TREX1, which breaks down DNA fragments that have wrongly ended up outside the nucleus of a cell. This happens more often in cancer cells than in ordinary cells. These DNA fragments can activate the immune system, which the cancer cells want to avoid and therefore it removes them as quickly as possible. The purpose of the DISA program is to inhibit the TREX1 protein to make it easier for the immune system to locate cancer cells and start fighting them.
Previous studies have shown that there is a clear link between elevated levels of TREX1 and poorer survival in patients suffering from, among others, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.
Marketing during BioEurope
These are cancer types that attract great interest from the major pharmaceutical companies, and the plan is to begin marketing procedures as well as talks with potential partners regarding DISA in connection with the BioEurope conference held at the end of October. BioStock contacted Martin Andersson, Chief Scientific Officer at Sprint Bioscience, to find out more about the project.
Using the immune system to treat cancer is a very hot area in cancer research. How do you view the possibilities of the DISA project to secure a position in the emerging treatment landscape?
– It is increasingly clear that different tumour forms use different mechanisms to evade an attack by the immune system. A large number of drugs will be needed to address these mechanisms and the DISA project will be a piece of the puzzle that could become an important component of future therapies.
What distinguishes DISA from other projects aimed at facilitating the identification of cancer cells?
– The DISA project differs in that there are no drugs today that block the activity of the TREX1 protein or other related proteins. This means that we expect to be able to treat other cancers where the TREX1 protein is the driving force in the ability of cancer cells to evade the immune system. In addition, the majority of other drug candidates within immuno-oncology are biological drugs that must be given as an injection. The goal of the DISA program is to develop a drug that can be taken as a tablet, which will facilitate things significantly.
The plan is to initiate discussions with potential partners at BioEurope in October. How do you perceive the general interest in partnering discussions right now?
– We are seeing increasing interest from potential partners in general. An increasing proportion of their future product portfolios are estimated to come from programs that have been inlicensed. Then, of course, we become an increasingly interesting partner as we license out more projects. It shows that we are a player to be reckoned with and that the programs we develop can pass external reviews, which validates the quality of our programs and us as a good partner in licensing deals.
The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.