CTx license potential cancer drug in $730M deal

Published at Feb 3, 2016, in Features

Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) has licensed a promising new cancer drug to US pharmaceutical company Merck.

The drug has been developed with the support from the UK’s Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research Technology. It has potential clinical applications in both cancer and non-cancer blood related disorders (hemoglobinopathies).

CTx also enlisted the help of the CSIRO, as a research partner.

According to the CSIRO’s Dr Tom Peat, the drug is designed to inhibit the protein PRMT5, which is associated with cancers including mantle cell lymphoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Dr Peat said, “Patients who have these types of cancers often have high levels of this protein, which is unfortunately also linked to high survival rates.

“Using our recombinant protein production facilities, we were able to produce samples of these proteins, crystallise them for structure based drug design and support the consortium’s pre-commercial investigations and trials.

“Access to high quality protein is absolutely critical in structural biology approaches to drug discovery, and CSIRO is pleased to be able to contribute this key capability.

“The CTx consortium was able to develop a drug that binds to this protein, allowing it to target the cancerous cells.”

Dr Peat said the CSIRO was thrilled to be part of this development and is confident that it could make a real difference for patients Australia and around the globe.


Equipment in the Recombinant Protein Production Facility.

Merck US will now further develop the drug, taking it to clinical trials, with a view to international commercialisation.

“This is a great result for Australian science and further demonstrates what can be achieved when science and commercialisation capabilities unite,” CTx chief executive Dr Warwick Tong said.

The deal provides potentially significant financial returns, which will be shared between CRT, CTx and the Wellcome Trust, with the majority being returned to CTx and its Australian research partners including CSIRO, Monash University, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

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