Cancer Research Technology has sealed a deal with MSD to develop new treatments targeting blood disorders and cancer.

The pact is focused on a promising new class of drugs that inhibit protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5), developed by the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Cancer Therapeutics (CTx) with support from the Wellcome Trust and CRT._

The PRMT5 protein plays a role in many cellular processes, including the epigenetic control of genes such as p53 – which protects the cell against cancer-causing mutations and is faulty in nine out of ten cancers. High levels of PRMT5 protein are found in mantle cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, melanoma, lung and breast cancers and are linked to poor survival. 

PRMT5 inhibitors also switch on important genes in the development of blood, which could provide disease-modifying treatment options for patients with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and beta thalassaemia, the firs note.

CRT, the development and commercialisation arm of Cancer Research UK, has licensed development and commercialisation rights to MSD on behalf of CTx, in return for an upfront payment of $15 million and potential milestone payments of up to $0.5 billion, as well as royalties on any sales. All payments will be shared between CRT, CTx and the Wellcome Trust with the majority being returned to CTx and its Australian research partners.

“The deal provides potentially significant financial returns, which CRT will invest into life-saving cancer research, and most importantly will hopefully bring promising new drugs to cancer patients as well as those suffering from blood disorders where there are no effective treatment options available,” said Phil L’Huillier, CRT’s director of business development.