New Partnership to Tackle Treatment-Resistant Lung Cancer

Jul 19, 2019
Jovana Drinjakovic

Donnelly Centre Investigator Igor Stagljar and the Toronto-based biotechnology company Cyclica have launched a partnership to advance treatment of drug-resistant lung cancer.

Igor Stagljarprofessor igor stagljar (Photo by Sam Motala). Together they will identify small molecules that can inhibit the mutated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein whose normal function is frequently disrupted in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common and type of lung cancer.

NSCLC is found in approximately 85 per cent of all lung cancer patients. Evolved drug resistance has been a key challenge for treating NSCLC due to EGFR mutations, which are present in roughly 17 per cent of people with lung cancer in the United States. The prevalence of these mutations increases to being present in half the number of patients of Eastern Asian descent, and are more common in women than men. Additional research in treating NSCLC is critical to developing effective precision medicines that can target the evolving nature of this disease.

The partnership brings together Stagljar’s proprietary MaMTH Drug Screening (MaMTH-DS) technology, developed in the Donnelly Centre and designed for the discovery of small molecule compounds capable of inactivating the triple mutant EGFR, with MatchMaker™, Cyclica’s artificial intelligence-powered platform, which will narrow down a shortlist of the most promising lead compounds identified by Stagljar’s lab. Cyclica will also computationally optimize the molecular structures of the selected compounds for desired pharmacological properties, before they are synthesized by Stagljar’s team, who will also test their efficacy in human cells.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with Cyclica since our collaboration represents a unique approach that unites two completely novel and complementary approaches, Cyclica’s artificial intelligence MatchMaker™ and our MaMTH-DS live-cell drug discovery assay, for the rapid identification and validation of novel EGFR inhibitors in NSCLC,” says Stagljar, also a professor in the University of Toronto’s Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.

“Our joint efforts will accelerate our ability to build novel EGFR inhibitors with these cutting-edge technologies and will thus speed up their implementation in the clinic.”

All IP generated from this project related to the compounds will be shared equally by the University of Toronto and Cyclica.

“We are thrilled to be working with the world class Stagljar Lab to leverage our drug discovery platform to progress our shared interests in creating novel advanced lead compounds for non-small cell lung cancer,” says Naheed Kurji, President & CEO, Cyclica.

“This project is an example of the growing integration between science and industry focused on commercialization, and a testament to the hyper innovative work being done in our own backyard at the University of Toronto.”

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