Private UK-based drug discovery and development group MISSION Therapeutics has picked up a £1.9-million grant through the eighth round of the Biomedical Catalyst scheme to help fuel progress in its DUB cancer programme.

DUBs (deubiquitylating enzymes) are an emerging, and hitherto intractable, drug class attracting significant commercial interest. This is because they are involved in multiple cellular process, including DNA damage and cell proliferation, and so their inhibition “has considerable potential for the generation of novel drugs for treating cancer and other unmet medical needs”, says the firm. And yet, DUBs remain significantly under-represented in pharma pipelines.

The funding will underpin a project using MISSION’s proprietary and unique technology platform to identify novel chemical entities targeting a particular DUB that lies at a key node of oncogenic signalling. Ultimately, these inhibitors, with first-in-class potential, will be used for treating malignancies with high unmet need for the benefit of cancer sufferers worldwide, MISSION noted.

The Biomedical Catalyst is a joint programme run by the Medical Research Council and Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board), offering funding to support UK academics and small to medium-sized businesses seeking to take their research from discovery through to commercialisation.

Winners of the eighth round, awarding a total of £18 million to UK researchers, were announced back in August.