Epizyme showcases a successful preclinical lymphoma program for third target

After establishing itself as a biotech to watch in the field of epigenetics, Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme says it achieved some promising results in a preclinical trial of a new drug that marks the addition of a new target to its growing pipeline.

Epizyme ($EPZM) is advancing drugs for genetically defined cancers. The first two drugs in the clinic for Epizyme are focused on two epigenetic enzymes: EZH2 and the lead program for DOT1L. The third target coming up from behind is PRMT5 an "arginine methytransferase (RMT) which is a subset of histone methyltransferases (HMTs) that is overexpressed in multiple human malignancies," including mantle cell lymphoma.

As part of its $650 million partnership with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Epizyme says its investigators snagged evidence that its preclinical oral drug--EPZ015666--could effectively kill cancer cells in vitro as well as in animal models of mantle cell lymphoma. The biotech announced the results at the annual ASH meeting in San Francisco over the weekend.

Researchers zeroed in on intracellular symmetric arginine di-methylation of SmD3, "a PRMT5 substrate that plays a critical role in RNA processing," according to the company. Epizyme, a 2011 Fierce 15 company, says it plans to continue work on the third target.

Analysts were more closely following Epizyme's DOT1L inhibitor EPZ-5676, which failed to impress with its Phase I update involving three objective responses for acute leukemias. The biotech's shares were down 5% on Monday.

"PRMT5 is the third target to come from the Epizyme platform, following EZH2 and DOT1L. Not only is EPZ015666 our first RMT inhibitor, it is the first RMTi to demonstrate in vivo activity in preclinical models. We look forward to extending our studies in MCL, as well as other tumor types," said Robert A. Copeland, the CSO at Epizyme.

- here's the release

Special Report: 2011 Fierce 15 - Epizyme

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