South Korea-based pharmaceutical products company JW Pharmaceutical has invested $2.6m in British anti-cancer drugs developer Argonaut Therapeutics.

This investment gives JW Pharmaceutical a 25% share in the company, making it the second largest shareholder. UK venture capital investment firm Oxford Sciences Innovation remains the largest shareholder of Argonaut.

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Founded in 2016, Argonaut is a University of Oxford startup focused on the development of next-generation anti-cancer drugs based on epigenetics. The drugs target abnormal arginine methylation in cancer.

An unnamed JW Pharmaceutical official was quoted by Korea Biomedical Review as saying: “JW Pharma expects that Argonaut’s PRMT5 inhibitors will be superior in efficacy and safety due to their high selectivity to competitive drugs being developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

“We plan to further strengthen our innovative drug development capabilities by expanding research cooperation with Argonaut Therapeutics and also by European research institutes and its R&D networks.”

“JW Pharma expects that Argonaut’s PRMT5 inhibitors will be superior in efficacy and safety due to their high selectivity to competitive drugs being developed.”

The startup firm is engaged in the development of a targeted anticancer agent that inhibits E2F-1 methylation by using protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5), which inhibits tumour cell proliferation and cell division.

The investment will be used by Argonaut to develop its PRMT5 inhibitor. Currently, the company is conducting a non-clinical study of the PRMT5 inhibitor as a potential treatment for glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer and metastatic gastric cancer.

In July this year, C&C Research Laboratories, JW Pharmaceutical’s joint venture with Roche Group’s Chugai Pharmaceutical signed a partnership agreement with Singapore-based research agency A*STAR to explore joint drug development.

In August, JW Pharmaceutical signed a global licensing agreement for its novel atopic dermatitis drug candidate, JW1601. Under the agreement, LEO Pharma will have exclusive rights to develop and commercialize JW1601 globally excluding Korea.