Lowe and team granted licence for further

Thursday, December 20, 2018

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A United States-based corporation founded in 2015 by Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe has been granted an exclusive licence by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) for the development of Galeterone, a molecule with the potential to inhibit prostate cancer growth in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer.

The development was announced by UMB's Office of Technology Transfer earlier this week.

“My research team and I are particularly grateful that the University of Maryland, Baltimore has seen it fit to trust us to take such an important drug forward. We expect to satisfy and exceed the expectations of the president of the university and our many supporters,” Dr Lowe is quoted in a news release from his corporation, Educational & Scientific, LLC (ESL).

“We are pleased to broaden our oncology portfolio with this exciting molecule and are even more pleased to be advancing a treatment that could help prostate cancer patients who presently have limited therapeutic options,” added Lowe. “This licence agreement — the second granted to ESL by UMB — reflects the potential of innovative science and the value of technology transfer partnerships.

“My wish is for Jamaica to become a centre of excellence for clinical trials in the near future,” he added.

Galeterone is a steroidal antiandrogen that acts by disrupting the androgen receptor signalling pathway, which is the primary pathway that drives prostate cancer growth.

According to ESL, the drug has already successfully completed phases 1 and 2 clinical trials for safety and efficacy in the USA. It is being prepared for specialised phase 3 clinical trials which involve a larger scale study of at least 1,000 participants and, if successful, will lead to commercialisation of the drug.

The studies are expected to commence on or before the second quarter of 2019. According to Dr Ngeh Toyang, CEO of ESL, one of the priorities of the phase 3 clinical trial will be to ensure that the Caribbean and Jamaica in particular are included in the trial which will involve countries in Africa, North America, and Europe.

Galeterone was discovered and put into early preclinical development by Dr Vincent Njar (lead inventor) and the late Dr Angela Brodie (co-inventor), at UMB School of Medicine (UMSOM) for the treatment of hormone sensitive prostate cancer.

Commenting on the development, E Albert Reece, executive vice-president for medical affairs, UMB, said: “The unique collaboration between Dr Njar and Dr Lowe is a great example of how we can combine basic science with new potential therapies to treat cancer. The long-standing research of these two internationally recognised scientists could bring promising results in this new commercial venture.”

Dr Njar presented data for Galeterone at the 'Cutting Edge Advances in Cancer Therapy' seminar earlier this month at The University of the West Indies' Faculty of Medical Sciences on the Mona campus.

“We are delighted that ESL has licensed its second cancer therapeutic candidate from UMB. The growing collaboration between UMB and ESL has the potential to significantly improve outcomes for cancer patients,” commented Jim Hughes, chief enterprise and economic development officer and vice-president, UMB, and director of UM Ventures, Baltimore.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men other than skin cancer, in the United States. The ACS estimates that in the United States alone during 2018, approximately 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed, and approximately 29,430 men will die from the disease. About one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men, especially those of African descent.

Prostate cancer drugs represent a large and growing market as current therapies remain largely ineffective in some patients leading to drug resistance and recurrence.

According to Decision Resources Group, an independent research firm, sales of prostate cancer drugs are expected to increase from US$6.0 billion in 2013 to more than US$9.0 billion in 2021, due to a growing aged population, a rising incidence of cancer and the slow introduction of new drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer.

The two leading prostate cancer drugs of choice, Zytiga and Xtandi, each have annual revenues of over US$2.5 billion. If ESL is successful in phase three clinical trials studies, it is hoped that the corporation will be able to capture a minimum of 20 per cent of the market over time since studies have stated its safety and efficacy are equivalent to the drugs of choice. It is expected that the phase three studies are to be completed within 24 months.

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