BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON CXR Biosciences Ltd. has spun out of the University of Dundee, Scotland, after attracting £4 million (US$5.7 million) in start-up funding to commercialize specialist drug discovery technologies developed at the university.

Roland Wolf, founder and scientific director, told BioWorld International, “The initial funding will take the company through two to three years of development. CXR BioSciences is unusual for a biotechnology company in having established sources of income from day one, from our contract research services. We also have [in-house] discovery and development ongoing, and as the company grows, will accelerate this activity.”

The Archangel investment group in Edinburgh put in £2 million, and further funding has come from the development agency Scottish Enterprise, and from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, among others.

Wolf is director of the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Dundee’s Medical School and honorary director of the Imperial Cancer Fund Molecular Pharmacology Unit, while co-founder Clifford Elcombe, a toxicologist, is director of the university’s Centre for Xenobiotic Research.

Wolf said CXR’s specialist services and methodologies would help clients select lead molecules and get them through preclinical development as quickly as possible. “It is increasingly easy to identify targets and screen to find small molecules that fit these targets. But this is generating a large number of chemicals, a key backlog in deciding which molecule to take forward.”

CXR also intends to develop a number of methodologies that will enable companies to make “yes/no” decisions about compounds. “No other drug discovery company provides the services we do. Our strength comes from our academic roots,” Wolf said.

The company will develop its own drug portfolio using an approach it calls Reverse Drug Discovery. This will take advantage of existing toxicity data in the literature, or from projects that the founders have been involved with, where the first interest in a compound was to understand the effect on general health of environmental release.

For example, lubricants have been widely studied and there is a broad range of data relating to issues such as carcinogenicity and bioavailability. “We can key this straight into the development process,” Wolf said. Although most of these compounds have never been considered for pharmaceutical use, Wolf said assessing the risk they pose to humans involves understanding their pharmacological activity and from this it is possible to deduce likely indications.

“There are lots of sensible reasons why this approach will work,” he said. “One great advantage is that we are looking at bulk chemicals, so there will be no problem with how to manufacture them.” CXR currently has one such project in hand, though Wolf declined to say what it is. He expects other compounds to be in preclinical development within the next three years.