Phylogica to form drug discovery spin-off with University of Cambridge

Leading Australian drug discovery company Phylogica Ltd (ASX: PYC, XETRA: PH7) will partner with researchers from the University of Cambridge in a spin-off company to pursue a novel application of its Phylomer® peptides for drug discovery. The new spin-off offers additional revenue opportunities for the Company, and discussions with prospective partners are underway.

The spin-off company, named Phenomica, will combine Phylogica’s Phylomer® libraries, which comprise billions of naturally derived peptides, with technology from Cambridge to identify vulnerable points in a disease that can be the focus for new drug development.

Phylogica has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation group, outlining plans to form Phenomica. The new company will be based in Cambridge, maximising access to state-of-the-art research facilities. Its mission will be to discover and validate new disease-associated targets and to identify new avenues for therapeutic intervention.

The formation of Phenomica follows our extensive collaboration in the area of drug target discovery and validation with the molecular therapeutics programme directed by Professor Ashok Venkitaraman at the world-renowned Hutchison/Medical Research Council (MRC) Research Centre.

Dr Paul Watt

Phylogica CEO Dr Paul Watt said: “The formation of Phenomica follows our extensive collaboration in the area of drug target discovery and validation with the molecular therapeutics programme directed by Professor Ashok Venkitaraman at the world-renowned Hutchison/Medical Research Council (MRC) Research Centre.”

“The researchers at Cambridge, in collaboration with Phylogica, reported that phenotypic screening of Phylomer libraries against biological pathways associated with the development of cancer, resulted in exceptional hit rates for modulating these pathways and hence a better understanding of the disease process and how to block it. Since then, intense work on the technology by the Cambridge-based team has established that this novel application of our libraries can be used more broadly as a tool to identify and validate disease-relevant biological targets for drug discovery,” Dr Watt continued.

Finding new ways to identify targets is becoming increasingly important as the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of traditional target classes such as kinases is diminishing, making it more difficult to develop new drugs without considerable competition and the need to navigate an increasingly complex patent landscape.

Phylogica is receiving growing interest from prospective pharmaceutical partners in the use of Phylomer libraries for target discovery. Through the creation of Phenomica, the company is capitalising on the opportunity to generate new revenue streams from their Phylomer platform in combination with the technology from Cambridge. Dr Watt said, “By establishing a separate legal entity for this business segment, we are maintaining our core focus on Phylogica’s drug discovery alliance activities.”

Ashok Venkitaraman, Ursula Zoellner Professor of Cancer Research at the University of Cambridge, who directs the molecular therapeutics programme and the MRC Cancer Cell Unit in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, said: “I am excited to be transitioning our collaboration with Phylogica into a commercial operation. We have shown that the enormous structural diversity of Phylomer libraries can be harnessed in phenotypic screens that can identify and validate new targets for drug discovery with high efficiency.”

Professor Venkitaraman continued: “Now that we’ve proven the concept, leading UK technology investors are showing interest in our work with Phylogica, which has prompted us to create Phenomica to accelerate our pursuit of the opportunity.”

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