Wellcome Trust, Merck Serono collaborate on cancer drug discovery

Merck Serono is teaming up with London's Institute of Cancer Research and the charitable Wellcome Trust to identify and develop new inhibitors to treat cancer.

Specifically, researchers will home in on drugs that have the ability to block tankyrase, an enzyme of the poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase family. Tankyrase function has been implicated in WNT signaling pathways, which have long been associated with cancer.

"Tankyrase inhibitors provide a unique opportunity to target one of the most common characteristics of cancer cells--their dependency on the so-called 'Wnt signaling' pathway. Both Merck Serono and the group at the ICR have already made notable progress in developing tankyrase inhibitors," said Dr. Chris Lord, team leader in the division of breast cancer research at The Institute of Cancer Research, in a statement.

The team will focus on advancing chemical compounds that have emerged from both organizations' tankyrase inhibitor programs toward clinical development.

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but the collaboration will be jointly funded by Merck Serono and the Wellcome Trust. The Institute of Cancer Research has an existing drug discovery program, which is supported by a Wellcome Trust Seeding Drug Discovery Award.

At the end of the collaboration period, Merck Serono will take over the clinical development of any selected candidates. If any products discovered or developed under of the collaboration are approved for use, the Wellcome Trust and IRC will receive milestone payments plus royalty payments on net sales of future products.

- read the press release

Special Report: Notable academic-pharma alliances of 2014

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