WILEX subsidiary Heidelberg Pharma receives research grant for development of PSMA antibody drug conjugates
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Munich, Germany, 12 January 2015 – WILEX AG (ISIN DE000A11QVV0 / WL6 / FSE) today announced that its subsidiary Heidelberg Pharma has been awarded a research grant for the further development of PSMA-antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) to treat prostate cancer. The new research project with an estimated cost of EUR 1.8 million will initially run for 30 months and will receive funding of almost EUR 0.9 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
PSMA is a membrane antigen overexpressed in prostate cancer and an attractive target for an ADC approach, as it shows low expression by most normal tissues and sufficient internalisation after antibody binding. PSMA exhibits a unique pattern of expression due to its specific overexpression in prostate cancer and its role in neovasculature of tumours which opens up the possibilities for other cancer indications as well.
In pilot studies Heidelberg Pharma evaluated the anti-tumoural potency of monoclonal antibodies targeting the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) conjugated to small molecules from the amatoxin family. The funds will be used to further develop PSMA-Antibody Targeted Amanitin Conjugates (ATACs). The preclinical project covers the humanisation and de-immunisation of the chosen anti-PSMA-antibody which will be coupled via several linker combinations to α-Amanitin based on Heidelberg Pharma’s patented technology. These human anti-PSMA-amanitin-conjugates will be tested preclinically for safety, tolerability and efficacy.
Dr Jan Schmidt-Brand, CEO/CFO of WILEX AG and Managing Director of Heidelberg Pharma GmbH, commented: “We are pleased that our PSMA-ATAC project was highly regarded by the BMBF experts. We have already been able to demonstrate high activity of amanitin-based anti-PSMA ATACs in prostate cancer xenograft models. The data encourage the development of these agents through IND-enabling studies to the clinical stage. The BMBF funding will support our approach.”
About Heidelberg Pharma’s proprietary ATAC technology
α-Amanitin is a bicyclic peptide naturally occurring in the green Death Cap mushroom. It potently inhibits the biosynthesis of RNA, a mechanism that is critical for the survival of cells. Accordingly, ATACs exhibit comparable activity against proliferating and resting tumour cells. This proliferation independent activity differentiates ATACs from other ADCs, which preferentially target proliferating tumour cells. As an additional advantage ATACs could offer a substantial capability to overcome the resistance mechanisms that might limit the efficacy of other antibody drug conjugates. The ATACs tested so far have shown strong anti-tumour activity in several preclinical tumour models.
About WILEX and Heidelberg Pharma
WILEX AG is a biopharmaceutical company which has a ready for partnering portfolio of antibody-based diagnostic and therapeutic Phase III product candidates for the detection and targeted treatment of clear cell renal cell carcinoma. Research and development focus on the operations of its subsidiary Heidelberg Pharma GmbH in Ladenburg, which primarily advances the development of the innovative platform technology for antibody drug conjugates (ADC technology) and provides pre-clinical drug discovery and development services. WILEX is listed at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange: ISIN DE000A11QVV0 / Symbol WL6. More information is available at www.wilex.com.
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