Spherix announced that it has closed an exclusive option agreement to license PrAg-PAS, an anthrax-based potential therapy for ovarian cancer developed by scientists at the University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMB).
The agreement gives Spherix rights to a patent application, now under consideration by the U.S. Patents Trademark Office. Spherix has until early December to execute a license agreement for commercial development.
Anthrax toxin contains three proteins and is not harmful to cells in its original form. However, one of those proteins, called PrAg, is recognized and broken by proteases — proteins that breakdown other proteins — present in the membrane of almost all cells in the body. The breaking of PrAg activates the anthrax toxin, causing toxicity and cell death.
Researchers at the UMB altered the natural anthrax toxin so that specific proteases only expressed by ovarian cancer cells activate PrAg, and not proteases present in all cells. By doing this, they made a potential anticancer treatment called PrAg-PAS.
Using a similar approach, PrAg could be engineered to target any protease expressed by cancer cells, possibly treating several types of cancer.
“This invention from the University of Maryland, Baltimore is ingenious. In simple terms, they have modified the Anthrax toxin so that it kills cancer cells, but not other cells,” Anthony Hayes, CEO of Spherix, said in a press release.
“By using an elegant protein engineering strategy, the inventors have hijacked the complex anthrax toxin delivery mechanism to create a highly efficient drug delivery system specific to ovarian cancer cells,” Hayes added.
A previous study showed that molecules using the same approach as PrAg-PAS stopped tumor growth in mice with cancer. The treatment was well-tolerated and not toxic to non-cancer cells. Mice receiving the therapy did not lose weight or develop organ failure.
“I believe that PrAg-PAS has the potential to strongly enhance our anticancer clinical development program, and we look forward to completing our diligence on this promising anticancer drug,” Hayes said.
This is the third agreement relating to potential anti-cancer therapies that Spherix has closed in recent months. It acquired the rights to license G4-1, developed by researchers at the University of Kentucky, on Aug. 26, and announced it had purchased CBM biopharma‘s assets, including a potential pancreatic cancer treatment called Gem-DHA, on Sept. 5.
“Spherix is an excellent commercial partner for this promising technology. They have a strong track record of successfully collaborating with universities, and we are very excited by Spherix’s goals for PrAG-PAS program,” said Phil Robilotto, associate vice president, office of technology transfer at UMB.