LONDON ¿ Antisoma plc broadened its pipeline by acquiring exclusive rights to the vascular targeting agent DMXAA, which has almost completed Phase I, from Cancer Research Ventures Ltd.

The cost was #700,000 (US$1 million), plus milestones and royalties.

Antisoma CEO Glyn Edwards told BioWorld International the acquisition would add quite significantly to the company¿s value. ¿We are very pleased with the deal because [DMXAA] is more advanced. Typically, the sort of products we can bid for are preclinical, whereas 109 patients have already been treated, and DMXAA may become our No. 2 compound.¿

Edwards said he expects Phase Ib trials, using DMXAA in combination with standard chemotherapeutics, would begin in the fourth quarter of 2002. The primary aim would be to prove there is no interaction with these drugs, but the trial will also look for signs of efficacy. ¿We only intend to develop it as a combination [treatment], so this should enable us to move straight on to Phase II/III pivotal studies.¿

The Phase I dose-ranging trials have indicated that DMXAA causes reduction in tumor blood flow when used alone. It also appeared to cause blood vessels to release cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor and interferons, which may make the tumor more sensitive to other chemotherapeutic agents.

In animal models, DMXAA in combination with a number of chemotherapeutics, particularly taxanes, controlled the growth of tumors and in some cases eradicated them. The compound is a small molecule that was discovered by Bruce Baguley and William Denny at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Baguley said, ¿A single dose of DMXAA, when used in combination with another chemotherapeutic agent, caused tumors to disappear at a rate we have not seen before.¿

The Phase I trials were sponsored by the UK charity the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC), of which Cancer Research Ventures (CRV) is the technology transfer arm. Guy Wood-Gush, CEO of CRV, said the deal shows CRV has been successful in moving on from a single focus of commercializing its work to providing technology transfer services to cancer researchers worldwide. ¿We have brought together a commercially experienced partner and an important new drug supported by data from Phase I clinical trials run by the CRC. This clearly illustrates CRV¿s key role in the worldwide market for early stage cancer products and CRV¿s strong growth prospects.¿

Antisoma, based in London, needs to raise more money, and Edwards said acquiring DMXAA will increase the cash burn in the short term, but that other costs will be coming down as trials of other products are completed.

¿If the market was better we would be [raising money] now,¿ he said. ¿At the moment we are hanging on, but will have to do it before the end of the year.¿ He added that he expects to acquire another compound during 2001, but it will not be as advanced as DMXAA.

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