LONDON ¿ KuDOS Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has raised #5 million (US$8 million) in its first round of funding and attracted Barrie Ward, formerly head of Virus Research Institute (VRI) Inc., back to the U.K. as CEO.

Ward told BioWorld International he had received several offers to run other companies, following the recent merger of VRI with T-Cell Sciences Inc. to form Avant Therapeutics Inc. ¿I wanted to use what I had learned in the U.S. The attraction of KuDOS is its technology in the field of DNA repair, and the quality of its people. In particular, I welcome the opportunity to start a company in what is obviously going to be a very important field.¿ Ward retains the position of chairman at Avant.

KuDOS, based in Cambridge, was founded in 1997 by Cancer Research Campaign Technology Ltd. (CRCT), the technology transfer arm of the charity, the Cancer Research Campaign, around the work of Stephen Jackson, a specialist in DNA repair and its inhibition.

¿In the past two to three years, a very detailed understanding of the process of DNA repair at a molecular level has been built up,¿ Ward said. ¿We have got enzyme targets and have developed screens which we will use to look for inhibitors.¿ These enzyme inhibitors could be cancer therapeutics in their own right, or they could be used as an adjunct to other chemotherapies or radiotherapies.

Until this funding round the company was financed by CRCT. Ward said the #5 million from Advent, 3i plc and Schroder Ventures will last for two to three years. ¿It will enable us to set up various assays and build our in-house technology capabilities. If we find appropriate inhibitors relatively early, we could be into late toxicology or Phase I with at least a couple of compounds in this time.¿ The intention is to find partners for compounds after they have passed early clinical studies. The company will have 10 to 15 staff members.

A number of small-molecule inhibitors of DNA repair enzymes already are known, but they are unsuitable because they lack stability. Ward is currently negotiating with a chemistry company to collaborate on the development of clinical candidates.

While KuDOS initially will focus on cancer therapy, Ward said, some of the enzymes involved in DNA repair also are involved in cell cycle control. ¿This gives us a number of opportunities to branch out into other indications in the future,¿ he said. ¿We are not limited in the sense of this being a narrow technology.¿