Specialist cancer drug discovery and development business Sareum Holdings has regained worldwide rights to preclinical-stage small molecule inhibitors of Aurora and FLT3 kinases that have shown potential in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and other haematological cancers, it announced on Thursday.
The AIM-traded firm said the rights had been returned by Hebei Medical University Biomedical Engineering Center (HMUBEC), a pharmaceutical research and development group based in China that had been conducting preclinical development activities.
It said Aurora+FLT3 kinase inhibitors targeted two mechanisms that were considered important in the progression of certain cancer types.
Aurora kinase was involved in the control of tumour cell mitosis (cell division), and FLT3 kinase over-activation was said to be the most common mutation in AML.
The board said the preclinical development candidate to which Sareum regained rights had shown "particular promise" against a range of haematological cancer models including AML and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), with good tolerance of the candidate drug at the predicted therapeutic dose, and no significant side effects reportedly being seen.
As part of the reversion package, Sareum would receive all preclinical data generated by HMUBEC and full control over the future preclinical development programme for both intravenous (IV) and oral formulations of candidates.
HMUBEC would retain a low-mid single digit percentage of net revenues that Sareum may receive from any future licence agreement or sales of Aurora+FLT3 inhibitors.
In regaining the worldwide rights, Sareum said there was no immediate or material financial impact to Sareum.
The company said it would review the full preclinical data package over the coming months and consider the best way forward with the assets.
Sareum said the termination of the 2013 agreement with HMUBEC was the result of a number of factors, including ongoing issues relating to the intravenous (IV) formulation, which were preventing higher doses from being explored to establish maximum-tolerated dose, thereby delaying the completion of toxicity studies, coupled with organisational changes at HMUBEC.
Sareum had been funding formulation specialists in the UK to try and resolve the IV formulation issue to enable preclinical studies to complete.
At the same time, Sareum said it was beginning to explore the potential of orally available formulations of the lead Aurora+FLT3 inhibitor candidate.
"The work done to date by HMUBEC has provided encouraging insights to the potential of the lead Aurora+FLT3 inhibitor candidate in AML and other haematological cancers," said Sareum CEO Dr Tim Mitchell.
"We are pleased to regain the worldwide rights to these inhibitors, particularly as recent industry activity suggests a resurgence of interest in Aurora kinase as a target for cancer drugs."
In taking back full control, Dr Mitchell said the company now had the flexibility to further address the IV formulation issues and fully explore oral routes of administration, including the use of novel delivery technologies that had emerged in recent years.
"We will provide a further update on our plans with these molecules once we have completed a review of the data and our options."