Novartis enters major collaboration to develop novel RAS inhibitors

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Sixth Element Capital and Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute have announced a major collaboration with Novartis to develop novel RAS inhibitors.

Sixth Element Capital LLP, a UK based fund manager established to manage investments for the £70mn CRT Pioneer Fund (CPF), and the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute have announced a multi-year agreement with Novartis to progress development of novel RAS inhibitors, discovered by the Institute’s Drug Discovery Unit for hard to treat cancers.

Under the terms of the agreement, Novartis will collaborate with the Beatson team to further develop the RAS inhibitors and has the option to exclusively license compounds identified through the collaboration.

Novartis is making an upfront payment to CPF and funding for research at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute. In addition, CPF is eligible to receive milestone payments and single digit royalties for successfully marketed projects from the collaboration.

More than 30% of all human cancers, including 95% of pancreatic cancers and 45% of colorectal cancers, are driven by mutations of the RAS family of genes. However, over the past 30 years, it has not proved possible to find a direct pharmacological approach to target RAS that has yielded a drug. Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, supported by Cancer Research UK, have been pursuing a highly structure-based design approach to discover small molecules that will directly disrupt RAS activity.

Dr Robert James, Managing Partner of Sixth Element Capital, said: “This agreement with Novartis is validation of the Beatson team’s excellent science and innovative approach to hard to treat cancers, such as pancreatic and lung cancer. This very exciting and differentiated approach sits well with our strategy of funding innovative science in order to bring new therapeutic products and technologies to market, improving the care and lives of cancer patients.”

Professor Justin Bower and Dr Heather McKinnon, Joint Heads of Drug Discovery at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “By working at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, the Drug Discovery Unit has been able to tackle one of the most challenging but profoundly important targets in cancer biology today. We are extremely excited to be collaborating with Novartis to take forward this highly successful RAS inhibitor project and translate our research and knowledge to the benefit of patients worldwide.”

Tony Hickson, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Business Officer, added: “This international collaboration and investment is timely given the renewed recent interest in targeting RAS. We hope to develop these small molecules to pave the way for new treatment options for patients with hard-to-treat cancers. Access to the substantial resources and technical expertise of Novartis will help accelerate this vital research into the clinic.”