Natural products to be developed as anti-cancer therapeutics

Ascenion GmbH has mediated a licence agreement between the German Research Centre for Biotechnology mbH (GBF) and Zentaris GmbH, German subsidiary of listed Æterna Zentaris Inc.

The licence grants Zentaris exclusive worldwide rights for the development, manufacture and marketing of disorazoles, a novel class of natural products with strong anti-cancer potential discovered by GBF researchers. The agreement also provides Zentaris with access to GBF’s know-how in the field of disorazoles and includes a licence to the strain of bacteria producing the product. The deal builds on an option Zentaris had already secured for the class of disorazoles in 2002.

Under the terms of the agreement, the GBF will obtain an upfront fee and annual licence fees from Zentaris as well as milestone and royalty payments in line with product progress and future commercialization.

In the course of the screening of soil bacteria, GBF researchers have discovered that disorazol is a powerful inhibitor of the tubulin system, with a similar mode of action to taxol and vinblastin, the active ingre-dients of some of the world’s best selling anti-cancer drugs. Following the results of in-vitro studies recently published in the Journal of Bio-chemical Pharmacology , disorazol shows remarkably high cytostatic activity. At extremely low doses, it inhibits the proliferation of a broad range of cancer cell lines including multidrug-resistant cells.

“Zentaris has a strong track record in the development of novel cy-tostatic agents and is an ideal partner to take this powerful class of compounds forward and make it available to cancer patients,” Dr. Christian Stein, CEO of Ascenion comments.

“Securing rights to GBF’s exciting compound is yet another proof of our excellent network of scientific collaborations. Next to focussing on our own internal drug discovery unit, Zentaris has always been pursu-ing close contacts to the scientific world in order to secure a constant stream of promising product candidates,” says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Engel, Chairman and Managing Director of Zentaris GmbH and COO of Æterna Zentaris Inc.

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