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VASTox Initiates Fifth Proprietary Drug Discovery Programme in Cancer

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VASTox plc has announced that it has initiated a drug discovery programme focused on the Wnt signalling pathway for cancer. This is VASTox’s fifth drug discovery programme.

VASTox has selected this programme to capitalise on its own in-house expertise and will use its chemical genomics platform technology and fruitfly larvae (Drosophila melanogaster) to screen its proprietary library of chemicals.

The Wnt (pronounced "wint") pathway is widely recognised within the scientific community to be a good cancer target because it is active in the developing embryo when cells are required to constantly grow and differentiate. The pathway is normally inactive in adults and only switched on again in cancers.

Based on its chemical genomics expertise, VASTox has developed a screening model in fruitflies in which a crucial step in the regulation of the Wnt pathway is impaired leading to uncontrolled cell growth.

In addition, because VASTox is using whole organisms to carry out its screening activities, the Company will quickly gain valuable information on the safety and efficacy of the compounds that affect the Wnt pathway.

Following the secondary fundraising for the company’s Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy programme in March, VASTox is now focused on moving its lead programme into the clinic by its target date of 2008.

This funding has also enabled the company to accelerate its other drug discovery programmes and initiate others such as the Wnt programme earlier than planned.

With three proprietary in vivo screening programmes using zebrafish (for the Company’s osteoarthritis programme) and fruitflies (for the Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Wnt programmes), the Company will look to announce progress in terms of hit selection within the next six months.

Dr Steven Lee, CEO of VASTox, said, "Our recent successful secondary fundraising has provided us with the funds to drive forward our lead programme in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy according to the timelines we set out in March."

"As a result of this much strengthened financial position, we are now in a position to add additional high quality drug discovery programmes. Our expertise in chemical genomics and fruitflies makes the Wnt signalling pathway an ideal discovery target for VASTox."

"With this programme, we are again demonstrating our ability to utilise exciting academic science as the starting point for a rigorous, industrial drug discovery process."

"By using in vivo models at the first stage of our Wnt drug discovery programme, we are confident that the hits we identify will show low toxicity and quickly form the basis of lead candidates."