The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Eisbach Bio GmbH today announced a strategic research collaboration to jointly discover and develop precision oncology drugs that target synthetic lethal engines key to tumor genome evolution.
The agreement aligns the drug discovery and development expertise of MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division with the innovative discovery platform and allosteric assay technology of Eisbach to generate medicines that selectively disrupt genome replication and DNA repair in cancers harboring defined genetic alterations.
“Modern genomics has revealed synthetic lethal targets in certain cancers with tumor suppressor gene mutations, and Eisbach has developed tools to pinpoint precisely where these targets are vulnerable at the molecular level,” said Adrian Schomburg, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Eisbach. “We are excited to collaborate with MD Anderson to develop innovative targeted therapies that exploit these unique vulnerabilities.”
Synthetic lethality is a phenomenon in which cancer cells with mutations in certain pathways are hypersensitive to drugs targeting related pathways. Notably, defects in certain DNA damage repair pathways – common to many cancer types – render cancer cells dependent on processes that reorganize the cancer genome.
“Cancers harboring mutations in tumor suppressor genes have been notoriously difficult to treat in the past,” said Timothy A. Yap, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., associate professor of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics and medical director of the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at MD Anderson. “However, growing clinical evidence with PARP inhibitors demonstrates that targeting synthetic lethality is a promising strategy in certain cancer types, and we look forward to continued progress in this space.”
Eisbach and MD Anderson will leverage their complementary expertise to jointly identify targets and develop small-molecule therapies that can shut off specific epigenetic processes, thereby disrupting genome control selectively in tumor cells while sparing normal tissues. With its proprietary assay platform, Eisbach is uniquely capable of identifying and targeting molecular vulnerabilities in this machinery through allosteric mechanisms.
“Our platform identifies the unique activation mechanisms of molecular machines essential for cancer cell growth,” said Andreas Ladurner, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Eisbach. “With this insight, we are able to develop targeted drugs that selectively interfere with the ignition of the engines that tumor cells have come to rely upon. These drugs are safe and selective by design.”
Eisbach will collaborate with the team at IACS, a drug discovery engine focused on developing novel small-molecule therapeutics. IACS is a core component of MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division, an integrated team of researchers, physicians and drug development experts working to advance impactful new therapies.
“Our Therapeutics Discovery team is committed to developing the next generation of cancer treatments that address significant unmet needs in oncology,” said Philip Jones, Ph.D., vice president of Therapeutics Discovery and head of IACS at MD Anderson. “By focusing on epigenetic machinery in our collaboration with Eisbach, we are hoping to advance additional much-needed therapeutic options that can improve patients’ lives.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Eisbach and MD Anderson will jointly determine the appropriate pathway for future development and possible commercialization on any therapies that show promise in laboratory studies.
MD Anderson has an institutional conflict of interest with Eisbach Bio GmbH through this strategic alliance and is implementing an Institutional Conflict of Interest Management and Monitoring Plan for all research related to this agreement.