Inflection Biosciences and RCSI join forces to lead war on breast cancer

16 Apr 2018486 Views

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From left: Prof Bryan Hennessy, RCSI; Darren Cunningham, CEO, Inflection Biosciences; and Dr Michael O’Neill, director of R&D, Inflection Biosciences. Image: Julien Behal

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With a new RCSI partnership, Inflection Biosciences will potentially create a multibillion-euro homegrown Irish company of global renown.

Inflection Biosciences, a start-up developing therapeutics for cancer, has joined forces with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to target therapy-resistant breast cancer.

The research collaboration aims to understand why there can be resistance to major breast cancer therapies and will examine potential new treatments by Inflection Biosciences for affected patients.

‘The early results have shown this treatment approach to be effective in breast cancer cells that have become resistant to standard-of-care treatments’
– PROF BRYAN HENNESSY

Last year, Siliconrepublic.com spoke with Darren Cunningham, CEO of Inflection Biosciences, who opined that a successful drug for the treatment of cancer could potentially generate several billions of dollars of revenue a year.

The former Elan and Amerin executive outlined how the company is laser-focused on turning research and trials into life-saving products in the months and years ahead.

The collaboration with RCSI will focus on new treatments, such as novel molecules that work by blocking two abnormal proteins that occur in breast cancer, known as PIM and PI3K.

Getting therapies to combat breast cancer

One in nine Irish women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.

Recent improvements in treatment and diagnosis mean that many more women now survive the disease. Unfortunately, current treatments have no effect in up to 20pc of patients and, where treatment does work, many patients relapse as treatment resistance emerges.

The research team at RCSI is led by senior clinical lecturer Prof Bryan Hennessy, a consultant medical oncologist in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, as well as adjunct professor in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hennessy is also clinical lead at Cancer Trials Ireland.

“I am excited about exploring the potential use of these novel molecules in the treatment of cancer, especially breast cancer, given that they will target the abnormal proteins, PIM and PI3K, which play an important role in therapy-resistant forms of this disease,” Hennessy said.

“The early results have shown this treatment approach to be effective in breast cancer cells that have become resistant to standard-of-care treatments.”

The collaboration has been supported by an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher.

‘This partnership exemplifies how collaboration between academia and industry can help improve human health through high-quality, impactful scientific research’
– PROF RAY STALLINGS

Inflection Biosciences, based in Dublin and London, is developing small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. The company’s pipeline of highly innovative cancer treatments was licensed from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre.

The pipeline comprises the IBL-300 series (PIM/PI3K/mTOR inhibitors) and IBL-202 (PIM/PI3K inhibitors) selected from a series of unique dual-mechanism kinase inhibitors and the IBL-100 series (selective pan-PIM kinase inhibitors), currently in pre-clinical stages of development. Data generated to date suggests potential application in a range of treatment-resistant solid tumours and haematological malignancies.

PIK3CA (which encodes the PI3K alpha isoform) is the most frequently mutated oncogene in breast cancer. The high prevalence of cancer-associated PI3K pathway alterations underpins the large number of treatments in development targeting this pathway. However, PI3K inhibitors have only shown clinical efficacy in a limited subset of breast cancer patients, with intrinsic and acquired resistance posing a significant challenge.

“Our dual-acting molecules are able to treat cancer cells by targeting both PIM and PI3K pathways,” explained Dr Michael O’Neill, director of R&D at Inflection Biosciences.

“This makes our compound more effective than compounds which attack either cancer pathway alone. We are delighted to have Professor Hennessy and the team at RCSI involved in this important research, and their expertise will be of great benefit as we continue to develop these important treatments.”

RCSI is ranked among the top 250 (top 2pc) of universities worldwide in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018) and its research is ranked first in Ireland for citations.

“RCSI’s research strategy has a strong focus on excellence in translational research for the benefit of patients and healthcare systems,” explained RCSI’s director of research and innovation, Prof Ray Stallings.

“This partnership exemplifies how collaboration between academia and industry can help improve human health through high-quality, impactful scientific research.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com