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FORMA Therapeutics and Cancer Research Technology to Discover Cancer Drugs

Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
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Companies join in bold research initiative to discover innovative tools, technologies and therapeutic drug candidates against deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs).

Under this agreement, FORMA will pair its ultra-efficient drug discovery capabilities with CRT’s expertise in translating academic discoveries through its Discovery Laboratories (CRT-DL) and the exclusive world-class academic network of CRUK Principal Investigators.

“This initiative with CRT and CRUK has the potential to significantly accelerate our understanding of the relevant biological applications of DUBs, a key class of enzymes involved in regulating protein homeostasis,” said Steven Tregay, Ph.D., President and CEO, FORMA Therapeutics. “We are particularly looking forward to working closely in this initiative with CRT’s Discovery Laboratories and a group of preeminent investigators, who bring critical insights in this area of important biology and have proven track records in basic and translational research.”

Keith Blundy, CEO of Cancer Research Technology stated, “Cancer Research UK’s breadth of research combined with CRT-DL’s drug discovery capabilities are a unique platform that has secured the FORMA relationship and will contribute to bringing breakthrough cancer therapeutics to patients.”

Protein ubiquitination is involved in many cellular processes and its regulation is controlled in part by DUBs. Ubiquitin “tags” proteins for degradation, and DUBs remove this tag, providing a tool for manipulating protein levels (protein homeostasis) in a cell. Ubiquitin biology is therefore complex and important to a broad range of human diseases. FORMA and CRT-DL will leverage their combined strengths to explore the protease enzymes that regulate ubiquitin-dependent pathways implicated in cancer.

“DUBs represent an attractive area for drug discovery exploration. As key regulators of ubiquitin recycling, processing, proofreading and disassembly, there is a tremendous opportunity to build a franchise of complementary therapeutics targeting the diverse collections of protein complexes,” stated Kenneth W. Bair, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research and Development for FORMA Therapeutics. Dr. Bair further noted that a tremendous investment is being made by several groups to propel protein homeostasis research and discoveries into the practice of medicine.

As part of this agreement, a collaborative consortium will be formed consisting of FORMA Therapeutics Inc. and up to ten FORMA ADDCos (Asset Discovery and Development Company) subsidiaries, Cancer Research Technology – Discovery Laboratories (CRT-DL) and initially five Principal Investigators including:

•    Professors Michael Clague and Sylvie Urbé - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
•    Dr. Benedikt Kessler – The University of Oxford, UK
•    Dr. David Komander – Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
•    Dr. Huib Ovaa – Chemical Biology Laboratory, Netherlands Cancer Institute, The Netherlands.

These investigators will focus on furthering the consortium’s understanding of biological and structural insights of DUBs, and assist the discovery teams to ensure the most relevant screening technologies and secondary characterization assays are deployed for selection of lead candidates. FORMA will provide research funding support and defined compensation payments for DUB-specific ADDCo programs that achieve specified milestones.

Rob Sarisky, Chief Business Officer, FORMA Therapeutics, stated, “We are pleased to have CRT participate as a cornerstone partner in FORMA’s launch of the ADDCo framework. This vehicle allows our not-for-profit collaborators to access a capital efficient engine operating at scale, attain financial returns mirroring their contributions and collectively advance medical science within the framework of a unified team.”

Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, added, “Our research is saving lives. We are making great progress in uncovering the causes of cancer to find better ways to tackle the disease. But there is much still to do and highly collaborative partnerships focused on novel biological pathways to deliver new treatments are urgently needed. This alliance with FORMA allows us to explore a very exciting emerging area of biology to identify and develop potential new cancer drugs that will hopefully benefit patients in the future.”

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