Toronto, ON – The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and MaRS Innovation (MI) have announced $1.5 million in funding from OICR over three years to further develop Cellax™, a nanoparticle drug that could offer an alternative to chemotherapy with fewer side effects.
“Cellax is promising because it provides a more targeted strategy for treating tumours, killing tumour cells while minimizing the effect on healthy tissue,” said Dr. Rima Al-awar, Director, OICR’s Medicinal Chemistry Platform. “OICR is proud to invest in a technology that has such potential to one day improve quality of life for cancer patients.”
Cellax, invented by Dr. Shyh-Dar Li and his research team in OICR’s Medicinal Chemistry Platform group, is a drug-polymer conjugate based on Dr. Li’s proprietary NanoCMC™ technology. These polymers self-assemble into defined nanoparticles and, when injected, selectively accumulate in tumours. Because of this property, the drug is released where it is most needed, increasing therapeutic benefits and reducing the side effects associated with conventional chemotherapy.
With the new funding, the Cellax team will conduct the pre-clinical manufacturing and toxicology studies necessary to bring Cellax to a clinical trial in cancer patients.
“Tumours are by nature more permeable to nano-sized molecules than normal tissue,” says Dr. Li. “We are developing Cellax to exploit this weakness. We hope to use the NanoCMC platform to deliver drugs that will build up only in tumours. This would spare patients the side effects associated with less targeted treatments, which damage healthy cells as well as tumours.”
Made from biocompatible components, Cellax is stable in storage and outperforms conventional chemotherapy in pre-clinical models of human tumours.
OICR is supporting the Cellax project through its Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization (IPDC) Fund, which was established to bridge the gap in the commercialization process between public funding agencies and private investors. All IPDC candidate projects are rigorously reviewed by external subject-specific experts in business and technology.
“MaRS Innovation provided the Cellax project with early-stage funding along with business development and management through our high-touch, embedded model,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “MI continues to lead Cellax’s commercialization strategy. We believe Cellax meets a clear clinical need within the multibillion-dollar Taxane market, and we anticipate that Cellax will emerge as a significant new player.”