Curie-Cancer, the body responsible for developing Institut Curie’s industry partnership activities, and Harmonic Pharma, a French company focused on extending the therapeutic application of compounds already on the market, have entered into a research collaboration aimed at exploring the anti-cancer activity of several molecules in Harmonic’s portfolio.
Harmonic’s main focus is on identifying new therapeutic uses for compounds that are already on the market or at an advanced stage of development, using an approach known as molecular repositioning. Since these compounds have already proven to be well tolerated in humans, Harmonic’s repositioning activities bring considerable gains in terms of time and resources.
“Harmonic Pharma’s know-how speeds up the process of making drugs available to patients. That is why partnering with the Institut Curie, expert in our therapeutic targeted fields, seemed an obvious option for our cancer project,” said Michel Souchet, CEO of Harmonic. “For a young, innovative firm like ours, partnering with a world-leading center like the Institut Curie gives us access to experimental models, fundamental knowledge and expertise related to the development of cancer.”
New therapeutic activities in existing drugs are often discovered by chance or through an empirical approach.
“Harmonic Pharma’s researchers have succeeded in rationalizing this process thanks to the development of original solutions for comparing molecular footprints in 3D,” said Arnaud Sinan Karaboga, scientific director of Harmonic. “We use a proprietary database containing several thousand active principles that are selected, classified and annotated as a function of their mode of action and their therapeutic applications. Our researchers have thus been able very quickly to identify several unpatented compounds acting on a cellular membrane receptor involved in certain cancers.”
The targeted biological receptor, already known for its role in facilitating the entry of the HIV virus into lymphocytes, is also involved in three of the most important stages of the development of cancer: tumor proliferation, the migration of tumor cells to other tissues and the invasion of these other tissues, which results in the formation of distant metastases (in the bone, the lungs, the brain and other areas).
To validate the initial observations made in in vitro cellular models, Curie-Cancer gave Harmonic access to animal models that are highly representative of cancer in humans, as well as to the know-how of its researchers with a deep understanding of metastatic processes. Institut Curie’s extensive collection of mice xenografted with tumors taken from human patients on the operating table, which are therefore representative of the tumors seen in man, is proving an especially valuable tool for therapeutic development.
“By studying the results that Harmonic Pharma has already obtained in vitro, and taking account of the role of the receptor of interest in these types of cancer, we rapidly turned towards three types of model for which we have a wide variety of tumors and considerable experience, namely breast cancer, lung cancer and eye cancer,” explained Didier Decaudin, who runs the Institut Curie’s preclinical investigation laboratory.
Depending on the results, Curie-Cancer may take over some of the molecules being studied and put them through clinical trials.
This research agreement involves both applied research in the development of products that could be rapidly commercialized and fundamental research that will help improve understanding of the receptor’s role in breast, lung and eye cancers. The collaboration is expected to run for several years and the costs will be shared.