Pharminox completes £1.5m funding round to progress development of novel anti-cancer drug candidates

Posted: 7 July 2011 | | No comments yet

Pharminox has completed a new round of equity funding, raising approximately £1.5m…

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Pharminox Limited (“Pharminox” or “the Company”), the UK-based cancer drug discovery and development company, today announced that it has completed a new round of equity funding, raising approximately £1.5 million from existing shareholders and new private investors. The proceeds of the funding will be used to progress the Company’s portfolio of novel cancer therapeutics. The Company was advised by Nash Fitzwilliams Ltd.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Peter Worrall, Chief Executive said, “We have been very gratified by the interest shown by investors in our technology and our vision for the Company. The new funding will enable us to maintain the momentum on our research and development pipeline, and in particular to progress our two lead programmes towards preclinical candidate selection over the next few months, with a view to out-licensing these within the next 12-18 months.”

Pharminox is focused on the discovery and development of potentially first-in-class / best-in-class small molecules targeting DNA damage and inhibition of DNA damage repair mechanisms. Its lead programme – PMX 500 – aims to identify small molecule drugs that selectively target the telomeres of cancer cells. Telomeres are the repeat sequences of DNA and associated proteins at the ends of all chromosomes that form a protective cap to maintain chromosomal integrity. They also act as a sort of biological clock to control the cellular ageing process.

In normal cells, part of the telomere is lost during each cell division until it reaches a critically short length, triggering a process of programmed cell-death (apoptosis). By contrast, around 90% of all cancer cells express an enzyme called telomerase, which replaces the part of the telomere lost in cell division, effectively rendering cancer cells immortal. The elucidation of the function of telomeres and telomerase, and their critical role in cancer, was the subject of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

The PMX 500 programme is focused on developing small molecules that promote rapid cell death of cancer cells by disrupting telomere function and by blocking the ability of telomerase to maintain the telomere. The Company has identified a series of compounds that demonstrate potent and selective anti-tumour activity in in vivo studies, and highly synergistic activity in combination with marketed anti-cancer agents.

The Company also announced today the grant of a key European patent covering the lead compounds from its PMX 500 programme.

Mr Worrall added: “The grant of the first European patent on our world-leading PMX 500 telomere-targeting programme is a significant milestone for this programme and a clear endorsement of the novelty of the Pharminox compounds. The corresponding US patent has already been granted, and in the last few months we have also filed two additional patent applications covering further novel compound series, greatly strengthening the patent estate around this programme.”

With its second programme – PMX 700 – Pharminox aims to discover and develop improved follow up compounds to the marketed anti-cancer drug temozolomide (Temodar™, Temodal™, Merck & Co., Inc.). Temozolomide in conjunction with radiotherapy is the current standard of care for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common form of brain cancer. However, approximately 80% of all GBM patients are either inherently resistant to temozolomide or acquire resistance over time due to a specific DNA repair mechanism which is able to repair temozolomide-induced DNA damage.

The Company is developing a series of small molecules that have demonstrated in vitro proof of principle in temozolomide-sensitive and temozolomide-resistant tumours, and is advancing the most promising compounds into in vivo studies.

Pharminox is also running a programme, designated PMX 900, to discover compounds that inhibit the activity of a key protein in the Base Excision Repair pathway, another important DNA repair mechanism.

In addition, the Company is advancing its Phortress programme, which is based on the intra-cellular induction of cytochrome P450 1A1. In preclinical studies, the lead compound has demonstrated potent anti-tumour activity, particularly in breast, ovarian, renal and lung cancer and is now in a Phase I trial being conducted by the Drug Development Office of the cancer charity Cancer Research UK.

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