The Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) today announced its partnership with Totus Medicines to enable the development of a new generation of more powerful PI3K-alpha inhibitors with longer-lasting effects and fewer side effects than those currently available on the market. The licensing agreement with Totus Medicines, a company using a ground-breaking, high-throughput, AI-enabled platform, will create treatments for cancers and other diseases.
PI3K is one of the most frequently mutated genes in cancer. These alterations are estimated to be responsible for two million new cancer diagnoses worldwide each year, including breast, colon, lung, bladder, and stomach cancers, among others. For decades, the pharmaceutical industry has invested billions in the development of PI3K inhibitors to stop cancer. Despite this effort, the compounds that are currently available are only effective in less than 10% of patients with tumors that have mutations in PI3K. These drugs also exhibit high toxicity levels and their positive effects are often short lived.
“This license exemplifies the capacity of the CNIO in the process of discovering new drugs against cancer, as well as the translation of cutting-edge scientific developments into society, in conjunction with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector at an international level,” said CNIO Director Maria A. Blasco.
Through a unique drug discovery platform that combines different machine learning techniques, Totus will use the knowledge generated within CNIO – specifically, by the Experimental Therapeutics Programme, led by researcher Joaquin Pastor- to develop a new generation of PI3K inhibitors, more powerful, longer lasting, and with fewer side effects than those developed by other organizations.
“I am confident that the partnership between Totus Medicines and the CNIO will result in expedited drug development to treat aggressive forms of cancer,” said Dr. Neil Dhawan, Totus CEO and co-founder. “Coupling the CNIO’s expert work on PI3K inhibitors with Totus’ proprietary drug discovery platform will truly help shape the future of cancer treatment.”
Targeting one of the most highly mutated genes in cancer
The PI3K protein (phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase) is key to many aspects of cell growth and survival. The signaling pathway in which it intervenes is initiated through direct interaction with activated growth factor receptors and via adapter molecules such as insulin receptor substrates. It can also be activated by the RAS protein.
During 2021, the CNIO, as a scientific institution of excellence, has managed a total of 305 agreements in the Innovation Area, including nine relevant licenses to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Likewise, as part of its management and transfer strategy of patents, the group has managed to license 50% of the patents in its active portfolio.