Oxford University spin-out Celleron Therapeutics has obtained global development and commercialisation rights to one of drug giant AstraZeneca’s promising oncology candidates.

The group has secured rights to AstraZeneca’s lead histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor AZD 9468, which it plans to develop using its own novel CancerNav predictive biomarker platform to identify tumours most likely to respond to the drug.

HDACs are a group of enzymes known to play a crucial role in several mechanisms involved in tumour growth and division, and so it is hoped that their inhibition will ultimately prevent cancer spread. However, as HDACs can be found all over the place their use as therapeutic targets has, to date, been difficult to determine.

According to Celleron, its ability to target the drug - now called CDX101 - towards responsive tumours using CancerNav could significantly accelerate the drug’s clinical development and, if successful, the time to launch, as well as offer a potential competitive edge over other rival candidates in the class.

“The combined benefit of a predictive biomarker applied to a drug with potentially class-leading properties means that CXD101 is more likely to demonstrate greater clinical value than other HDAC inhibitor based therapies,” the group claims.

The terms
Under the terms of the deal, Celleron has acquired full development and commercialisation rights to the drug including the right to sublicense. In return, AstraZeneca will receive undisclosed but “significant” milestones and royalties, plus a share of proceeds if a third party becomes involved in commercialisation, and also has the right to discuss with Celleron buying back rights to the drug in the future, adding an extra element of flexibility to the partnership.

Commenting on the deal, Celleron founder Nick La Thangue said it “secures an immediate and strong partner to share in the future value of the product [and] is the ideal partnership to leverage our clinical and biomarker expertise”.

And John Goddard, AstraZeneca’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Business Development, said his group will “benefit from the potential success of this drug in several ways and through partnership can do so without the need to commit internal R&D resources”.