Cambridge spin-out uses science of aging to target cancer
Two Cambridge University spin-outs investigating new ways to treat killer diseases have taken important first steps towards getting their drugs on the market.
Delta-G, which specialises in the science of aging, has made a breakthrough in the understanding of how our cells behave as we age. The company has patented a new class of molecules with the potential to become a new type of cancer drug.
Professor William Bains, who founded Delta-G around the scientific ideas of Dr. Aubrey de Grey at Cambridge University explained “The approach is likely to be particularly suitable for late-stage lung, colon and breast cancers, which kills over 800,000 people a year in the West. A drug that offers a new approach to treat these patients would be of tremendous value.”
Cancer cells use the energy they gain from metabolism abnormally, according to Delta-G. The company has evidence that its new understanding of exactly what is wrong with the metabolism of the cells has allowed its researchers to target them particularly effectively.
The patent is the first of what is hoped will be a series on this approach to cancer treatment.
Dr. Geraldine Rodgers, technology manager for Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds, said “Patent protection is vital for the ideas that our companies are turning into products, so this is an important step forward for Delta G”
Delta-G has also been working on a new treatment using a combination of drugs for chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that affects about one in 400 people in the West.
Currently, the only effective treatment is a combination of graded exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy - an approach that typically takes months or years to alleviate the symptoms. A patent protecting Delta-G's approach was filed in February.
To date, the company has only received seed funding, receiving £130k from the Cambridge University Challenge Fund and NESTA in 2004.
Meanwhile, DanioLabs, the neurology and ophthalmology drug reprofiling company has begun a Phase I proof-of-concept trial of DL06001 and DL06002 for sialorrhoea (drooling) and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) in Parkinson’s disease.
These are the first of the company’s programmes to enter the clinic and are part of DanioLabs’ focus on improving the quality of life of patients with intractable neurological conditions.
The study is being conducted in the UK on human volunteers and is expected to finish later this year. Results are expected to be announced by December.
DL06001 and DL06002 are novel combinations of established drugs with a long history of safe use. DanioLabs’ reprofiling strategy identifies and enhances known drug compounds for new, innovative therapeutic applications, with the aim of out-licensing products for further development and commercialisation.
The company’s approach to reprofiling is based upon identifying opportunities through clinical observation, as well as systematic screening of drug libraries in high-throughput zebrafish disease models.
While Parkinson’s disease is classically associated with slowness, stiffness and tremor, it is increasingly recognised that patients also suffer from other symptoms that can markedly decrease quality of life, including sialorrhoea and hyperhidrosis.
According to the World Health Organization, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease are set to become the second main cause of death by 2040, after cardiovascular disease.
Currently, there are approximately four million Parkinson’s disease sufferers worldwide, creating a market for Parkinson’s disease treatments worth approximately $US 2.8 billion.
Given the increasing growth of the Parkinson’s disease population and the lack of effective treatments for sialorrhoea and hyperhidrosis, this area of unmet medical need represents a significant commercial opportunity.
It is envisaged that the DanioLabs’ Parkinson’s disease products may have potential in a broader spectrum of indications, such as sialorrhoea in patients with cerebral palsy or oesophageal cancer and excessive sweating in general.