Drugs firm BTG aims to shake up IO cancer therapy
FTSE 250-listed drug company BTG is to plough new investment into cuttingedge cancer therapies in a bid to shake up the fast growing global immunooncology (IO) drugs market.
BTG’S play in IO – a market worth $8bn (£6.2bn) a year today and projected to reach $50bn – is to develop medical devices that can deliver the immune system-boosting drugs directly to the cancer-affected part of the body using specially-designed needles, catheters or probes.
The British firm hopes this approach will prove more effective than the current method of ingesting the drug and altering the whole body’s immune system, which can lead to side effects, such as an attack on healthy cells rather than just tumours.
BTG is understood to be in discussions with larger pharmaceutical rivals about developing potential partnerships on clinical trials.
It will trial methods that include pairing IO drugs with medical devices to freeze tumours, or injecting beads into the body carrying IO agents.
It has committed £500,000 into an R&D competition, doubling an initial funding pot launched earlier this year.
BTG is probably best known for its snake venom treatment, Penumbra, which was a big seller in North America. It also produces treatments for cancer, severe emphysema, severe blood clots, and varicose veins, as well as antidotes that alleviate toxicity and treat rare conditions.
IO therapies work by equipping the body’s immune system with the tools to kill cancer cells.
A handful have been approved and are already being used to treat some types of cancer, led by US giants Merck & Co and Bristol-myers Squibb with their respective drugs Keytruda and Opdivo. British firm Astrazeneca is one of the firms jockeying to catch up, but it faced a huge setback last month when their trial of IO drug Imfinzi came out negative for lung cancer patients in an initial readout.