In­flec­tion to present breast can­cer drug data

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS NEWS - DO­MINIC COYLE

Ir­ish drug de­vel­op­ment com­pany In­flec­tion Bio­sciences will present data on its fledg­ling break­through breast can­cer ther­apy to the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for Can­cer Re­search an­nual meet­ing on Monday.

The Dublin com­pany is work­ing on a drug that it be­lieves will give hope to women with treat­ment-re­sis­tant breast can­cer.

Its IBL-302 mol­e­cule aims to shut down two sep­a­rate path­ways com­monly used by can­cer cells to spread. Much cur­rent ther­apy is fo­cused on shut­ting down, or in­hibit­ing, what is called the PI3K path­way.

The trou­ble is that when this path­way is blocked by can­cer drugs, the can­cer cells find other path­ways to con­tinue the spread of the dis­ease. Re­searchers at the Dana Far­ber Can­cer In­sti­tute in Bos­ton sug­gested that tar­get­ing the PI3K path­way and a sep­a­rate gene, PIM2, to­gether could de­liver ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits, halt­ing the spread of can­cer for a while.

In­flec­tion’s IBL-302 mol­e­cule is the only ther­apy cur­rently tar­get­ing both th­ese can­cer path­ways.

In­flec­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Dar­ren Cun­ning­ham and his co-founder Dr Michael O’Neill found the drug in a pipe­line of mol­e­cules that they li­censed from the Span­ish Na­tional Can­cer Re­search Cen­tre in 2013, hav­ing pre­vi­ously looked at the po­ten­tial of up to 150 other op­tions.

“It has taken us 3½ years, in­clud­ing fund-rais­ing, to get to this point,” says Mr Cun­ning­ham. The next stage is get­ting the drug into pa­tients in a phase I trial to test both safety and ef­fi­cacy.

Ex­cited about prospects

Prof Bryan Hen­nessy, a con­sul­tant on­col­o­gist and se­nior lec­turer at the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons, who has worked on get­ting IBL-302 to this point, is ex­cited about its prospects.

“No­body else is look­ing at a drug like this,” he says. “We have been through a lot of pre­clin­i­cal work and it is quite ad­vanced.”

Fund­ing a phase I trial will cost in the re­gion of €10 mil­lion and Mr Cun­ning­ham, whose back­ground is in busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Elan, is con­fi­dent of get­ting to that point within 18 months.

In­flec­tion al­ready has sup­port from En­ter­prise Ire­land and life sci­ence-fo­cused ven­ture cap­i­tal group Foun­tain Health­care. Michael Smur­fit is an­other in­vestor.

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