Cancer Research Technology is extending its deal with Germany’s Merck to discover new cancer drugs targeting the Hippo signalling pathway, which regulates cell proliferation and apoptosis to control tissue growth.

The move follows a successful one-year target validation and drug discovery feasibility partnership between CRT’s Discovery Laboratories in London and Cambridge and Merck at Darmstadt in Germany, during which the alliance sought to increase understanding of the role of the Hippo pathway in cancer.

Abnormal activation of proteins controlled by this pathway has been linked to the development of a range of cancers, making it an attractive area for the discovery of novel therapies, the parties concluded.

As a result, the partnership has now moved into drug discovery with the aim of identifying molecules to take into preclinical studies and clinical trials.

Under the terms of the deal, CRT, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, will receive royalties and milestone payments to be invested into charity’s research.

“We’ve brought together leading academics in the field and industry to build on world-class research, and we’re now focused on developing these early projects for the benefit of cancer patients,” said Dr Iain Foulkes, CRT’s chief executive.