MD Anderson, Artios Pharma and ShangPharma announce in-licensing agreement for DNA damage response inhibitor

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Artios Pharma Limited and ShangPharma Innovation today announce the in-licensing by Artios of a small-molecule ATR inhibitor program, developed jointly by MD Anderson and ShangPharma.

Under the agreement, Artios has exclusive rights to research, develop, manufacture and commercialize products globally. The lead candidate is expected to be ready for Investigational New Drug (IND) application by the second half of 2020.

“This program has the potential to be a highly effective DNA damage response (DDR) targeted treatment in cancer. We look forward to advancing the work done by MD Anderson and ShangPharma for the benefit of cancer patients,” said Dr. Niall Martin, chief executive officer at Artios Pharma. “The addition of the ATR programe further supports our position as a leader in the DDR space and strengthens our growing portfolio of assets, which includes a leading Polθ program, currently in candidate IND evaluation, and a large discovery stage platform of novel DNA repair nuclease inhibitors.”

The ATR inhibitor program is the result of an extensive collaboration between MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery team and ShangPharma. Therapeutics Discovery is a multidisciplinary team created within MD Anderson to advance the next generation of cancer therapies to answer unmet oncology needs.

“Targeting DNA damage repair has the potential to provide an important therapeutic option for many patients in need of new treatments,” said Philip Jones, Ph.D., vice president of Therapeutics Discovery at MD Anderson. “We are pleased Artios will leverage its unique expertise in this field to advance this novel therapy toward the clinic to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”

ATR is an important signalling protein in DNA double strand break repair and replication stress. Through inhibition of ATR, tumors bearing an ATM deficiency can be selectively killed through a concept known as synthetic lethality. High levels of ATM mutations and protein loss have been characterised across many different tumor types, creating a significant opportunity for ATR inhibitors clinically. Based on clinical observations at MD Anderson, Therapeutics Discovery engaged with ShangPharma and its affiliate, ChemPartner, to develop small-molecule inhibitors of the DDR that could benefit patients across multiple cancer types.

“We are proud of the entire collaboration team, including ChemPartner, led by Sarah Lively, Ph.D., vice president of Innovation and New Technologies, for advancing the programe from early-stage research to formal drug discovery and development,” said Walter Moos, Ph.D., chief executive officer of ShangPharma. “We are pleased to transition this important program to the capable development team at Artios, and we hope this ultimately provides an impactful therapy for those afflicted with cancer.”