Cancer siRNA player raises cash on route to Phase I

Selkirk
(Barbara Carr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Ryboquin has raised cash to advance a siRNA therapy designed to make chemotherapy effective in a broader population. The fundraising, which is a small tranche of a planned £10 million ($14 million) round, will allow Ryboquin to scale up production of the drug ahead of entering Phase I.

Selkirk, Scotland-based Ryboquin has earmarked the money for the advance of ECP-102, a drug it thinks can make chemotherapy more broadly effective by upregulating p73. Currently, chemotherapy is most effective when high levels of the tumor suppressor p53 are present in the cancer cells. In the absence of p53, p73 becomes more important. To bolster the effectiveness of this alternative route to cell death, Ryboquin is working on siRNA designed to block a process that stops the p73 protein from accumulating.

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“We now have a product that we believe could enable traditional chemotherapy to be up to four times as effective in some people and reduce some of the side effects of this treatment in some others,” Ryboquin CEO Alan Walker said in a statement. “This funding will enable us to take Ryboquin from the laboratory to a place where it can be used in hospital for a clinical trial.”

Walker, whose 46-year biopharma career includes stints in senior posts at Warner Lambert, Elan and ProStrakan, is overseeing a virtual drug development operation tasked with carrying out this work. A team led by Professor Alex Mullen at the University of Strathclyde will perform the heavy lifting. The initiative is building on work carried out by Ryboquin in collaboration with the Medical Research Council, a publicly funded research organization in the U.K.

That early work has resulted in the creation of an siRNA with the potential to block the itch ubiquitin ligase, an enzyme that acts as a brake on the accumulation of p73. Ryboquin has teamed with fellow British biotech Nanogenics, a spinout of University College London, to gain access to a nanoparticle method of delivering the siRNA. The allies think the vehicle will protect the siRNA from degradation, resulting in effective levels of the active ingredient reaching its target following intravenous delivery.

Ryboquin is hoping to start testing the idea in the clinic soon. Before then, it must carry out the scale-up work and continue its fundraising activities. The round unveiled this week consisted of £800,000 from investors, including Scottish Enterprise, TRI Cap, Braveheart and board members, and a further £495,000 in the form of a grant. Ryboquin has ambitions to pull in a further £7 million to £10 million from institutional investors to finance its advance through the clinic.

- read the statement

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