US drug firm licenses breakthrough Edinburgh cancer discovery

The Institute of Genetics and Cancer at the University’s Western General Campus

THE University of Edinburgh and US biopharmaceutical company Nuvectis Pharma, Inc., have signed a multi-million-dollar licensing deal to turn a research breakthrough into new medicines for hard-to-treat cancers.

Nuvectis has licensed exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise treatments based on a new compound known as NXP900, in a deal facilitated by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service.

NXP900, a novel inhibitor of the proteins SRC and YES1, has shown the potential to reduce the growth of many types of cancer driven by SRC such as breast, colon, prostate, pancreatic and ovarian cancer, as well as many driven by YES1 such as tumours affecting the lungs, head and neck and oesophagus.

Its discovery follows 10 years of research led by Professors Neil Carragher and Asier Unciti-Broceta at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre within the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetics and Cancer.

NXP900 is a “first-in-class” candidate drug which employs a newly discovered mechanism to safely inhibit the activity of SRC/YES1, a protein family that has been associated with cancer growth for several decades but has resisted previous attempts at attack in solid tumours.

Professor Margaret Frame, Director of the Institute of Genetics and Cancer and world expert on SRC, said: “Every researcher working in this field hopes their discoveries can reach patients and save lives, and this agreement with Nuvectis promises just that, using a new way to attack cancer that has long evaded science.

“This unique drug is the result of combining advanced cell-based screening with innovative medicinal chemistry to select compounds with exciting biological activities, testament to the power of innovating academic cancer drug discovery pioneered in the Institute over many years.

“Congratulations to Asier and Neil, the Nuvectis team and Edinburgh Innovations on reaching this agreement.”

The University of Edinburgh, through Edinburgh Innovations, will receive an upfront payment of $3.5 million (£2.5 million) under the licensing agreement, as well as additional upfront and milestone-dependent payments. In addition, the licence provides for royalties on sales.

Meanwhile, the researchers and the drug development company will continue to conduct research collaboratively.

Dr George Baxter, CEO of Edinburgh Innovations, said: “As far as turning academic research into impact goes, you don’t get much more rewarding than finding new treatments for cancer. This partnership is very significant, and we’re very proud to have helped it reach this point.”

Nuvectis said NXP900’s unique mechanism and potent effect provide the potential for the treatment of solid tumours “never before achieved with existing SRC inhibitors”.

Ron Bentsur, Co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nuvectis, said: “We are thrilled to partner with the University of Edinburgh to advance the development of NXP900, which has demonstrated outstanding preclinical activity to date.”

The licensing agreement is based on research findings published in the journal Cancer Research in August (“A novel mode of inhibiting SRC improves drug efficacy and tolerability”, Cancer Research, 2021, 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0613).

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