An Edmonton-based pharmaceutical company has landed a $109-million deal to develop genetic medicine that could block certain cancers from spreading.
Entos Pharmaceuticals, formed in 2016, announced the agreement with an anonymous America-based pharmaceutical on Thursday. The name of the American, publicly-traded company isn’t being released at the moment for competitive reasons.
The two companies will be looking to develop genetic-based drugs with Entos providing the method for delivery. The main focus at the moment will be to look at blocking certain types of cancers from spreading by targeting specific genes.
Entos CEO John Lewis, who is also a cancer researcher at the University of Alberta, said the way his company delivers medicine can be used in a multitude of ways but his lab is very interested in knowing what makes cancer spread.
“We’re definitely developing medicines that will block the spread of cancer,” he said. “My lab has focused on asking the question: ‘Which specific genes are responsible for the spread of cancer?’ That can be applicable to all cancers that spread. We have identified 11…very specific genes where if you block them you block the spread or metastasis of cancer. There is a really compelling case to develop genetic medicine to block any one of those targets.”
Human clinical trials are expected to start next year at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute. The trial will include patients living with prostate, lung, colorectal or pancreatic cancer.
Lewis said the multi-million dollar deal is validating for the Edmonton startup — and shows the technology developed has matured enough to hit the market.
Under the agreement with Entos, the unnamed company has the option to exclusively licence any new drug candidates developed. Lewis said the unnamed company will licence the drug, which uses Entos’ delivery system, under its name to market.
Lewis said Alberta has a small but growing biotech industry and he believes it’s important that an environment is created to allow companies to thrive.
At the moment, Entos employs about 12 people but Lewis hopes to see that number grow.