LONDON - Cyclacel Ltd., of Dundee, Scotland, has filled a hole in its technology portfolio by obtaining worldwide rights to the nuclear transport protein Penetratin, a drug delivery agent which is able to penetrate the cytoplasm and nucleus of live cells.

The company specializes in the discovery and development of cancer treatments that work by interrupting the cell cycle of malignant cells. It plans to use Penetratin in conjunction with its Pimetic drug candidates, which mimic the effects of peptides involved in the control of the cycle.

The agreement with the French government-funded Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), in Paris, includes an up-front fee, milestone payments and royalties. In addition to exploiting Penetratin for its own cancer programs, Cyclacel says it has been approached by several companies seeking sublicences.

The delivery agent already widely is used for research purposes, and Cyclacel pointed out many groups have published encouraging results indicating Penetratin's low toxicity and high labeling efficiency. Tests carried out by the company demonstrate Penetratin can carry cargo several orders of magnitude larger than itself. Nuala Moran