Benefits of association
Dr Michael Moore, Chief Executive Officer from PIramed Ltd
Dr Michael Moore
What is your latest innovation re drug development for cancer management? I understand PIramed was one of the few biotechnology start-ups to obtain funding in 2003 and is developing molecular therapeutics for cancer and other diseases. Do you feel a UK company is at a disadvantage regarding late stage drug targeting STI?s (signal transduction inhibitors)?
PIramed?s mission since the company was formed in July 2003 has been the discovery and development of new classes of small molecule STIs with a focus on phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI 3-kinases). There is a general consensus that PI 3-kinase is a central target in growth factor receptor-mediated signal transduction in cancer cells for which there are presently no inhibitors in the clinic. Entry into man is anticipated early in 2006.
PIramed is extremely well-placed to develop inhibitors directed at this molecular target which was first identified at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR), UCL, London. The first selective PI 3-kinase inhibitors were discovered through an industrial collaboration between three London institutes (CR UK, Institute of Cancer Research and LICR) and Astellas Pharma in Japan. Exclusive licences to issued patents on the PI 3-kinase target and NCEs were obtained by PIramed in 2003, commensurate with venture funding and the inception of the business. The company thus has valuable assets in PI 3- kinase technology and novel drug leads and the advantage of being a recognised leader in the field.
PIramed is a company leading the way in a highly specialised form of cancer research. What role do you feel STI?s will play in drug development and treatment of cancer and other diseases?
STIs have already had a major impact in cancer treatment through the success of drugs like Glivec (imatinib), Tarceva (erlotinib) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), each of which has a different target profile and disease indication. Overall, the market opportunity for STIs as a burgeoning class of anti-tumour agents was projected at $4.7bn in 2004. In the past 18 months several major human tumour types have been shown to express mutant forms of Pi3-kinase. As a target of unmet clinical need PI 3-kinase inhibitors which inactivate the mutant forms can be expected to have clinical application across a broad spectrum of cancers, either alone or in combination with other STIs or different classes of anti-tumour drug. There is thus a promising future for new STIs such as PI 3-kinase inhibitors which are differentiated by molecular target, mechanism of action and potentially, clinical utility.
Dr Michael Moore
Funding obviously plays a key part in drug development and research. How has PIramed managed to secure financing for its technologies?
PIramed was one of the few early stage companies to raise capital in an unfavourable financial market in 2003 and continues to be well-capitalised for its stage of maturity as an organisation. As the company?s programmes progress toward development the capital requirement will increase. This will be achieved partly through increased investment and partly through third-party revenue generation, as discussed below.
Are collaborative partnerships important to PIramed?s long-term growth and in what way?
PIramed?s strengths are primarily in the preclinical arena, particularly the creation and characterisation of druglike molecules against novel therapeutic targets. Partnerships are important for a multiplicity of reasons including external endorsement of the company?s drug discovery technologies, funding ? for ongoing research but especially for the later, expensive, stages of drug development ? ?benefits of association? that inevitably come via a relationship with a large company and risk management. Fundamentally, partnerships promote a financially more secure business for the longer term and create options for future development of the organisation.