Arrowhead Subsidiary Calando to Jointly Develop RNAi Therapeutics to Fight Childhood Cancer with the National Cancer Institute
The agreement with the NCI's Pediatric Oncology Branch will focus on developing RNAi therapeutics to attack neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial (outside the brain cavity) solid tumor in children younger than five. Despite advances in modern therapy, neuroblastoma that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic) remains incurable. One roadblock is finding an effective way to deliver RNAi therapeutics to metastatic cancer, which could be located anywhere in the body.
“We are very excited to be able to collaborate with such a diverse and talented group of physicians and scientists at the NCI”
In 2005, Calando took a step toward breaking down this barrier when a study by Caltech and Children's Hospital Los Angeles demonstrated that Calando's proprietary delivery technology can effectively carry short interfering RNA ("siRNA") to targeted cancer cells and inhibit tumor growth in mice by silencing the target gene.
Terms of the collaboration will be governed by a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) Letter of Intent now being finalized by Calando and the NCI, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The program is expected to last at least three years through preclinical research and into human clinical trials. Calando and the NCI will share responsibilities in developing the therapeutics.
"Securing this collaborative relationship with the NCI demonstrates both the scientific and competitive strength of Calando's technologies," said R. Bruce Stewart, Arrowhead's Chairman.
Many of today's vital drugs have taken the fast lane from lab to market since the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 made CRADA deals possible between private companies and government agencies. These agreements allow the private sector to share costs and retain licensing options, while the federal agency saves the taxpayers' money and ensures responsible use of the technology. The anti-cancer drug Taxol, approved for advanced ovarian cancer in 1992, was the result of a CRADA between pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) and the National Institutes of Health.
Calando, a majority owned subsidiary of Arrowhead, was launched to develop and commercialize proprietary RNAi technologies, a technique that was discovered only a few years ago. A key roadblock to the therapeutic use of RNAi has been designing the right delivery platform that is small enough to penetrate cancer cells, large enough not to be flushed out of the body and does not degrade before it reaches its target. Calando's self-assembling RNAi therapeutic nanoparticle contains linear cyclodextrin (a form of sugar), an siRNA and a targeting molecule.
Cyclodextrin-containing drug formulations have been approved and marketed for the past three decades and are used for various purposes, including improving drugs' solubility and enhancing their stability. Calando's proprietary technology enables the synthesis of linear cyclodextrin molecules that are uniquely able to interact with siRNA molecules to protect them as they travel through the body. Degradation of the molecule has been a primary roadblock in the development of effective siRNA therapeutics, along with troublesome immune responses triggered by other delivery approaches.
Last year's successful animal studies, published in the journal Cancer Research, raises the hope for an easier regulatory path through the Food and Drug Administration.
"We are very excited to be able to collaborate with such a diverse and talented group of physicians and scientists at the NCI," said John Petrovich, Calando's chief executive officer. "Through this collaboration, Calando and the NCI hope to develop therapeutics to treat more effectively some of the deadliest cancers."
About Arrowhead Research Corporation
Arrowhead Research Corporation (www.arrowheadresearch.com) is a diversified nanotechnology company structured to commercialize products expected to have revolutionary impacts on a variety of industries, including materials, electronics, life sciences, and energy.
There are three strategic components to Arrowhead's business model:
-- Outsourced R&D Program: Arrowhead identifies patented or patent-pending technologies at universities or government labs and funds additional development of those technologies in exchange for exclusive rights to commercialize the resulting prototypes. Leveraging the resources and infrastructure of these institutions provides Arrowhead with a highly cost-effective development pipeline. Currently, Arrowhead is supporting efforts in nanosensors, stem cell technology, and interconnects for integrated circuits at the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Duke University.
-- Commercialization Program: After prototypes have been sufficiently developed in the laboratories, Arrowhead forms or acquires majority-owned subsidiaries to commercialize the technology and provides the subsidiaries with strategic, managerial, and operational support. At present, Arrowhead owns majority interest in subsidiaries commercializing diverse technologies, including anti-cancer drugs, RNAi therapeutics, compound semiconductor materials and carbon nanotube technologies.
-- The Patent Toolbox: Arrowhead has acquired or exclusively licensed patents and patent applications covering a broad range of nanotechnology. The Company is actively seeking to add to this intellectual property portfolio.
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