French pharma company Ipsen has entered into a new collaboration agreement with BAKX Therapeutics focused on an oral small-molecule activator of BAX for the potential treatment of leukaemia, lymphoma and solid tumours.

Under the terms of the deal, Ipsen will collaborate with BAKX Therapeutics to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise BKX-001 in these oncology indications.

BAX is a novel target in the apoptosis cell-signalling pathway – apoptosis is the naturally occurring process of programmed cell death.

When apoptosis is deregulated, it can lead to uncontrolled cell division and the development of a tumour.

The apoptosis cell-signalling pathway has previously been proven to be a target for cancer therapy with the development and approval of BCL-2 inhibitors for the treatment of some haematological cancers.

The BAX target is downstream of all anti-apoptotic proteins including BCL-2, BCL-XL and MCL-1.

In leukaemia-cell lines and human samples, BAX activation by small-molecule agonists have been shown to promote apoptosis while sparing healthy cells in vitro and suppress human acute myeloid leukaemia xenografts and increased host survival without toxicity in vivo.

“As part of our strategy, we continue to strengthen our pipeline and deliver exciting external-innovation opportunities,” said Howard Mayer, executive vice president and head of research and development at Ipsen.

“We are, therefore, delighted to partner with the expert team at BAKX Therapeutics to move BKX-001 into further preclinical development, with the goal of achieving a development candidate that can be evaluated for the potential treatment of haematological malignancies and solid tumours,” he added.