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Pharmaceutical companies team up to develop cancer drugs from MU

Pharmaceutical giants Artios and Merck will develop cancer drugs using Masaryk University’s know-how.

Lumír Krejčí and Kamil Paruch.

Artios Pharma Ltd. and Merck KGaA recently announced a three-year joint research project that aims to discover and develop several novel cancer drugs. They will use findings made based on previous research carried out in cooperation between Artios and Masaryk University.

Two years ago, MU closed a licensing agreement with Artios Pharma Ltd to develop new cancer treatments. This enabled the university and this major investor to begin research on inhibiting nucleases using patented compounds, which were developed in the laboratories of Kamil Paruch and Lumír Krejčí’s research team at the MU Faculty of Medicine and FNUSA-ICRC.

The compounds they developed can inhibit nucleases, that is, enzymes that contribute to repairing damaged DNA in a process known as DNA Damage Response (DDR). Blocking DDR in cancer cells leads to their destruction, and therefore, these compounds have major potential for treating many different types of tumours.

Cooperative efforts between MU and UK-based Artios, which contributed not only money to the research programme but also expertise, resulted in significant progress towards developing effective cancer drugs.

The objective of the recently announced project between Artios and Merck, which will entail an investment of about 30 million dollars, is to develop several drugs that target DDR mechanisms. This capital will ensure the further financing of research, which got a major boost thanks to MU’s know-how.

“We regard this step as a very important milestone in the project. Only large pharmaceutical companies are capable of getting new drugs through all the phases of clinical testing and then bringing them to market. For us, it is great satisfaction to know that the results of our work (and all the stress caused by securing the money to conduct this type of research) have attracted global pharmaceutical companies”, state Paruch and Krejčí.

“The exclusive license signed between the university and Artios Pharma two years ago was one of the most important deals that the MU Technology Transfer Office has ever helped come to fruition. If this new research deal between Artios and Merck leads to the development of innovative treatments in the coming years, it will mean a significant source of income for Masaryk University”, says Radoslav Trautmann, head of the MU Technology Transfer Office, commenting upon the joint project just launched by the two leading pharmaceutical companies to develop cancer drugs.