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RVC Biofund Portfolio Company to Contribute to Development of Cancer Therapy

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013
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The investment committee of RVC Biofund has approved the investment in Andrus Reo, a recently established startup which will conduct phase III clinical trials for an antineoplastic drug in Russia and the CIS.

The Reovirus based anti-cancer drug, which is being jointly developed with Oncolytics Biotech Inc. of Canada, targets the treatment of head and neck malignant tumors as well as pancreatic cancer. The investment in Andrus Reo in addition to supporting the phase II clinical trials will also assist with further registration of the drug.

According to the Russian Federation Ministry of Health, the rate of pancreatic cancer has been steadily increasing for the last two decades. Pancreatic cancer was diagnosed at 9.05 cases per 100,000 individuals in 2000, 10.59 cases per 100,000 in 2011, and is expected to reach 11 cases per 100,000 by 2015. The survival rate of pancreatic cancer remains one of the lowest in oncology due to lack of effective treatment. While the statistics concerning head and neck malignant tumor statistics are not as severe, they continue to be a significant concern of the Russian people and burden on the Russian healthcare system.

“Despite considerable achievements in the last 30 years in chemotherapy the problem of new malignant neoplasms therapy is still of acute interest and the attention of venture investors to develop and market projects of new antineoplastic medication is growing as well. This unprecedented project, launched by Andrus Ltd. and RVC Biofund in cooperation with Oncolytics Biotech Inc., involves unique scientific and experimental foundation of the Canadian company and advanced clinical research data. The transfer of innovative developments at such a stage is an unparalleled precedent for the Russian pharmaceutical R&D sector,” said Egor Beketov, Director of RVC Biofund. “We hope to make this drug available for Russian patients and significantly improve their the quality of life as well as lay the groundwork for the new development of products on the basis of oncolytic viruses”

The development is a Reovirus which selectively infects and destroys the cells with activated RAS pathway. Hyperactivation of the RAS signaling pathway is the root cause of many cancers (up to 30 % of all carcinomas) and is found in metastases in 85-90 % of all cases. Tumors bearing an activated RAS pathway are deficient in their ability to activate an anti-viral response mediated by the host cellular protein, PKR. Since PKR is responsible for preventing reovirus replication, tumor cells that lack the activity of PKR are susceptible to Reovirus infection and eventual cell death. As normal cells do not possess RAS activation, these cells are able to thwart Reovirus infection by the activity of PKR.

“The drug is a proprietary formulation of the human Reovirus and is a key development of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. We carry out multi-center randomized clinical studies of this drug for a variety of indicators in oncology and hope the development of a commercial product will improve the efficiency of treatment of a wide range of malignant neoplasms. Cooperation with RVC Biofund and Andrus Ltd provides us a unique opportunity to market the product both in Russia and the CIS countries,” said Brad Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Oncolytics Biotech Inc.

Konstantin Chernov, General Director of Andrus Reo added, “The medicine targets a wide range of tumors and has a potential to become a blockbuster in its segment. Limited (compared to traditional chemotherapy) side effects and unique mechanism of action allows the combination of the drug with different anti-neoplastic agents thus increasing the efficacy of treatment with excellent tolerability. The effects were proven in a cycle of phase II clinical trials of different cancers, including head and neck cancer.”

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