BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Cyclacel Ltd. signed a £8 million (US$11.49 million) deal with AstraZeneca, for a research-stage cancer program in small-molecule inhibitors of the cell cycle. The collaboration will focus on inhibitors of the cyclin-binding groove, which is targeted by the body's own tumor suppressor genes to arrest the cell cycle and push cancer cells toward apoptosis.

Under the terms of the two-year agreement, Cyclacel, based in Dundee, will receive up-front fees and milestones totaling £8 million, and royalties on any product sales. The collaboration includes the intellectual property rights to Cyclacel's CYC103 program, understanding of mode of action, and proprietary minimized gene products. Cyclacel will develop mimetics of the gene products, while AstraZeneca will optimize leads and carry out preclinical and clinical development.

This is a significant deal for Cyclacel, which has raised £11.8 million since its formation in 1996 around the research of David Lane, chief scientific officer, and discoverer of the p53 tumor suppressor gene. CYC103 is the company's fourth program in terms of proximity to the clinic, and Spiro Rombotis, the company's CEO, said, "The deal with AstraZeneca, one of the world's largest players in cancer, validates our ability to deliver shareholder value from programs at different stages of development."

The agreement also underlines the commercial potential of Cyclacel's Polgen division, which focuses on cancer genomics. The division has rights to 100 gene mutations that appear to be effective in controlling cell division in cancer cells, and Cyclacel is taking these targets and pushing them through its rational small drug design process.

AstraZeneca believes that in addition to leading to a new class of drugs for preventing tumor cells from cycling, the technology will have wider application in a variety of other targets.

Earlier this year CYC202, Cyclacel's oral cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor, designed to initiate apoptosis, entered Phase I trials.

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