Cambridge, Mass.-based Felicitex Therapeutics, a privately owned drug discovery company, and Selvita, a Polish biotechnology company, have entered into a strategic collaboration to develop breakthrough personalized cancer therapeutics for some of the deadliest and most resistant cancers, such as pancreatic, colon, ovarian, lung and hematopoietic tumors.
During the first phase of the collaboration, the companies seek to discover and develop selective inhibitors of the cancer quiescence target kinase family, in order to generate multiple novel drug candidates against the quiescent cancer cells. The ultimate aim of the joint project is to deliver clinical candidates for unmet oncology indications. The companies will plan joint projects on other targets related to cancer quiescence in the future.
It currently is well accepted in the scientific community that populations of malignant cells are highly heterogeneous and whereas some of the cancer cells divide rapidly, some of the cancer cells are quiescent. All currently available cancer chemotherapies target proliferating cancer cells. Quiescent cancer cells are invulnerable to these treatments because quiescent cells are not dividing. Moreover, when cancer cells are under stress, such as from chemotherapy, anti-angiogenesis therapy, or radiation, cancer cells often go to “sleep,” or use quiescent state as a niche to hide. After the completion of treatment, these cells begin growing again and cause cancer recurrence.
Felicitex Therapeutics’ technology targets quiescent, non-responsive cancer cells with two therapeutically beneficial outcomes—firstly making cancer cells vulnerable to conventional treatments, and secondly preventing cancer cells from hiding in the quiescent state for indeterminate period of time and thereby delaying or eliminating cancer recurrence.
“Cancer cell quiescence is a major and as yet unaddressed mechanism of cancer resistance,” said Maria Vilenchik, Ph.D., founder, CEO and scientific director of Felicitex Therapeutics. “At Felicitex, we strive to develop treatments for some of the deadliest and most resistant to therapy cancers, among which pancreatic cancer is particularly vicious. Our collaboration with Selvita creates the opportunity to identify novel therapeutic solutions and bring hope to cancer patients.”
“We want to partner with best scientific teams in the world in order to explore different approaches against neoplastic processes,” said Pawel Przewiezlikowski, CEO of Selvita. “The unique know-how of Felicitex in the area of cancer quiescence together with scientific expertise of Selvita team will highly increase our chances to develop new highly-differentiated therapeutics.”
“The primary focus of our R&D efforts is development of personalized targeted therapies that address unmet medical needs in oncology,” said Krzysztof Brzozka, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Selvita. “The collaboration with Felicitex Therapeutics will be an important part of our strategy of diversified R&D approach and will even more broaden the current pipeline of anticancer projects that we are involved in.”
Selvita will receive from Felicitex guaranteed research funding and a value share in joint projects, which may in the future be monetized through milestone payments from Felicitex or a portion of revenues from programs partnered by Felicitex. The first committed research period will be 15 months with an option for Felicitex to extend the collaboration for additional 12 months. Selvita also will receive royalties after the jointly discovered drugs have been approved.