It’s in the genes
February 2011
by Kimberley Sirk  |  Email the author


ABBOTT PARK, III.—EpiTherapeutics and Abbott got in the holiday spirit by announcing a three-year collaboration agreement in late December to develop new anti-cancer drugs by making small-molecule inhibitors against carefully chosen epigenetic oncology targets.
Epigenetics is the study of inherited changes driven by the differential expression of genes through mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Cancer epigenetics is a rapidly emerging research area with the potential to help find pathbreaking treatments for patients by modifying DNA and chromatin, both of which play a role in tumor development.
The types of cancers to stalk have not yet been determined, says Tracy Sorrentino of Abbott's public affairs department.
"The choice of targets will be based on the expertise and interests of both parties," Sorrentino says. "A collaborative research program will guide target selection."
As a result of the research pact, EpiTherapeutics receives cash upfront and additional support to fund research the company is currently undertaking. Milestone payments are also part of the deal and royalties are a possibility several years down the road. Research activities related to the new collaboration will be conducted at both EpiTherapeutics and at Abbott. Additional financial details were not disclosed.
"We are very pleased with our drug discovery collaboration with Abbott, which brings tremendous expertise in the oncology field," comments Dr. Martin Bonde, EpiTherapeutics' CEO, in a prepared statement. "Abbott's choice of EpiTherapeutics as a collaboration partner is recognition of our competencies within epigenetic biology and early drug discovery."
Sorrentino adds that this deal dovetails perfectly with Abbott's scientific philosophy.
"Part of Abbott's research and development strategy is to complement our internal strengths with external expertise," Sorrentino says. "Abbott brings expertise in drug discovery and EpiTherapeutics brings expertise in the biology of epigenetics—the goal of this partnership is to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments."
"We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with the aim of developing new anti-cancer drugs within the promising new area of epigenetics," comments Bonde.
"Abbott's oncology research is focused on the discovery and development of targeted, less toxic therapies that work against the processes cancers need to survive," says James Sullivan, vice president of pharmaceutical discovery at Abbott, in a prepared statement. "The varied nature of the cancer requires a diverse approach looking at multiple disease targets in different tumor types, and we look forward to working with EpiTherapeutics to accelerate our development of new anti-cancer drugs."
EpiTherapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company developing novel innovative cancer drugs based on research in the field of epigenetics. The company was founded in October 2008 by Prof. Kristian Helin and colleagues from the Biotech Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Helin and his research group are considered among the world leaders in the field of basic oncology research and involved in the discovery of various epigenetic enzymes as well as their role in human diseases, including oncology.
EpiTherapeutics, in its short history, has compiled a strong investor base consisting of Novo Seeds, SEED Capital Denmark, Lundbeckfond Ventures, OSI Pharmaceuticals and Merck Serono Ventures.
Abbott is a global, broad-based healthcare company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics. The company employs nearly 90,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries.
Code: E021119

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