Business Irish

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Biotech firm gets licence to develop UCC cancer drugs

Olivia Kelleher

POTENTIAL new cancer drugs developed by a University College Cork (UCC) research team are to begin commercial development at Cork biotech firm Lee Oncology under an intellectual-property licensing agreement. Lee Oncology was founded in October 2008 as a spin-out from UCC.

The research project that gave rise to the licensing opportunity began when a scientific team, led by Lee Oncology's Dr Finbarr Murphy, created a unique series of genetically engineered human cell lines that recreate the 'faulty wiring' found inside cancer cells.

These engineered cells were then used as test beds to search chemical libraries for molecules with anti-cancer activity.

A team of pharmaceutical chemists, led by Professor Anita Maguire, then worked on certain molecules to improve their suitability for development as drugs.

The resulting technology comprises multiple sets of compounds exhibiting targeted inhibition of signal pathways that mediate cancer-cell survival, and which are selectively toxic to cancer cells.

In addition to funding from Enterprise Ireland, the company is now seeking further funds to support development of the technology.

The president of UCC, Michael Murphy, has welcomed the company into its new custom-built incubation space at Western Gateway.

Dr John Harris, an international authority on kinase-inhibitor chemistry and non-executive director responsible for medicinal chemistry at Lee Oncology, said: "We are delighted to gain access to these high-quality anti-cancer compound series, confident that we can develop them rapidly into promising drug candidates that patients urgently require."

Lee Oncology's CEO Colin Telfer said: "This licence is the start of what we hope will be a long-term commercial alliance with UCC, Prof Maguire and her team."

Irish Independent

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