2.5 million euros helps fight liver cancer

The fight against liver cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide, is being helped by 2.5 million euros from the EU’s Framework Programme.

PONT (Parallel Optimisation of New Technologies for Post-Genomics Drug Discovery) is a three-year specific targeted research project involving four biotechnology companies and two academic partners from the UK, Austria and Germany. It aims to bridge the gap in the drug development pipeline using a new approach in post-genomics drug discovery. The project combines optimal technologies with the best scientific expertise to develop new medical therapies.

The overall project will concentrate on three areas where Europe is in a relatively favourable position compared with the US - human tissue resources, ribonucleic acid (RNA) technology, and structural proteomics. However, the initial focus will be on the development of genomics targets in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer as it is one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide and has a very poor prognosis.

“PONT combines cutting-edge technologies and associated know-how developed specifically by the project partners in a collaborative multinational effort to establish a unique metaplatform for post-genomics drug development” says Peter Kane, Senior Director of Research Operations at Tripos Discovery Research - one of the UK project partners. “The project will provide a new paradigm for drug development, resulting in a dramatic reduction in late-stage drug target attrition for preclinical development activities and therefore shortening the time to develop new drugs by two years or more. The programme addresses the general lack of efficiency in converting promising targets from genomics research into effective new drugs, potentially achieving significant time and cost savings that will increase European competitiveness in the biotechnology Industry at many levels.”

“Pont will not only bridge the gap between the wealth of genomics targets and shortcomings in development of these targets, but also the gap between a fragmented biotech industry and the few very big pharma companies. The project integrates four companies in a highly interactive workflow that will provide a model establishing a strong position for biotech precision technology platforms.”

As well as increasing the overall competitiveness of the European biotechnology industry, the successful implementation of the PONT strategy will also provide important and valuable new therapeutic prospects. In contrast to the traditional approach, PONT will undertake pre-clinical drug development with a parallel instead of a sequential approach. This will save years when it comes to the trials.

“The PONT project shows the value of investing EU funding in effective research and development that will bring benefits to us all”, says Claire Horton, FP6UKs National Contact Point for the Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health programme. “It provides the opportunity to bring together the expertise of scientists from throughout Europe, enabling them to work together in finding solutions to many of today’s problems.

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