For 10-20% of those with prostate cancer, long term survival prospects are poor. The aggressive form of the disease, castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), has a median survival time of 14 months. Two newer drugs on the market have some benefit, but cancer cells have multiple adaptive mechanisms that limit their effectiveness.
CellCentric’s approach is to reduce levels of the androgen receptor and its splice variants, which are key to the progression of prostate cancer. This has the potential to have a prolonged effect, overcoming the resistance mechanisms seen with other approaches.
The further £4m will see CellCentric take its novel compounds through candidate finalisation and IND qualification, ready for clinical trials. The investment will also allow the progression of back-up compound series.
CRPC is not only a major clinical unmet need, it is also a significant commercial opportunity. The market for CRPC treatments is estimated to be worth over $9.5bn based on existing drugs alone.
CellCentric’s scientific foundation is in epigenetics. It was a pioneer in the space – examining the fundamentals of cell fate control, and when disease can arise. Having investigated multiple epigenetic-related drug targets alone and in collaboration, the company is now focused on the mechanisms that effect the androgen receptor pathway. The androgen receptor pathway is key to the progression of prostate cancer, and CRPC specifically. It is also important in other cancers, including bladder and breast. Thus CellCentric’s focused drug discovery efforts are likely to have benefits beyond its initial indication.
Dr Neil Pegg, CellCentric’s Research Director, said “the continued support from Morningside and Providence is further validation of CellCentric’s science. It will help us to evaluate and develop the full potential of our HAT programme, and aim to deliver a new approach for the treatment of cancer.”
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CellCentric is a biotechnology company, founded with Prof Azim Surani FRS CBE of University of Cambridge, and one of the earliest pioneers in epigenetics. Epigenetic mechanisms play a key role in regulating cell fate. When these processes go awry, disease states can be induced, including most notably cancer.
CellCentric has identified and investigated nearly 50 enzymes associated with epigenetic regulation, and has carried out early drug discovery on six. One of these, an arginine methyltransferase programme was licenced to Takeda Pharmaceuticals. The company is now focused on the modulation of the androgen receptor pathway, with its lead programme targeting a histone methyltransferase enzyme (HAT). The primary indication is for castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). The company operates an asset-centric, capital efficient outsourced model, collaborating with multiple leading academic centres in Europe and the US, and through contract research organisations.