A strategic alliance between The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Cayman Chemical and Fannin Innovation Studio, has led to the founding of a pre-clinical therapeutics company called ACF Pharmaceuticals, LLC. The company will focus on the discovery and development of breakthrough small molecule inhibitors to address the unmet clinical needs in cancers caused mainly by inflammation, such as in melanoma, colon, and pancreatic cancers.
Studies shown that chronic inflammation has always been linked to the development of cancer and to the stimulation of the cyclooxygenase pathway (COX). While COX enzymes have been easy targets for many anti-inflammatory drugs, COX inhibitors still manage to cause a number of adverse effects not too different from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, rare liver and kidney problems, headaches and dizziness, allergic reactions and rashes. The newly-launched company, ACF, will be working on the development of better anti-inflammatory solutions via the COX enzyme route, to help address cancer and boost anti-tumor immune response.
According to the agreement, Cayman will be harnessing its experience in drug discovery to work on the design, optimization, synthesis and initial screening for possible indications in cancer, fibrosis, inflammation and pain. MD Anderson will be responsible for using both existing and new models to study the potential efficacy of candidate molecules. Houston-based Fannin will be the source of the project’s early-stage funding and will help oversee internal operations at ACF, lending expertise in intellectual property strategy, business development, and capitalization and grant strategy.
“While we have been very successful at establishing alliance with large pharmaceutical companies, this is not the only modality by which we can make a positive impact in the lives of patients,” said Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., vice president for strategic industry ventures at MD Anderson in a news release. “In this arrangement, we are combining three complementary skills to build something bigger than the sum of its parts, organized in a lean and efficient fashion.”
“Cayman has a long history of success supporting the development of therapeutics such as Celecoxib via our research biochemicals. With ACF, we will for the first time join as full partners with a talented team of MD Anderson biologists and physicians to apply our deep understanding of the COX enzymes to the treatment and prevention of cancer,” said Kirk Maxey, M.D., president and CEO at Cayman Chemical.
“More targeted ways to modulate the COX pathway promise a substantial benefit to patients and represents a major market opportunity,” said Atul Varadhachary, M.D., Ph.D., managing partner at Fannin. “This partnership reflects both increasing recognition of both the commercial value of innovation being created in Houston and the need for creative ways to advance early stage innovation.”