Swedish biotech Medivir and Cancer Research Technology have unveiled plans to work on a new class of drugs that has shown promise for a range of different cancers, including more aggressive types.

CRT and Medivir will conduct a two-year research programme to develop small molecules targeting the cell surface protein ADAM8, which has been linked to tumour survival, cell invasion and metastasis.

Trials in mice with pancreatic cancer have shown that inhibiting ADAM8 prevented the spread of the disease, shrunk tumours and significantly extended lifespan. Researchers believe this effect is because of the protein’s role in cell adhesion, cell migration, inflammation and the growth of blood vessels, all key processes for tumour growth and development. 

The deal sees Medivir receive an exclusive, global license to research, develop, manufacture and commercialise ADAM8 inhibitor drugs stemming from the research, which will be led by Professor Jörg Bartsch, head of the TransMIT-Project Division for Research in Neuro-Oncology at TransMIT GmbH, located at Marburg University, Germany.

CRT stands to bag an upfront payment and future success milestones as well as royalties on sales which are to be shared with the academic collaborators, but specifics were not revealed.