UK’s Cancer Research Technology (CRT) has signed a licence agreement with Spanish company Pangaea Biotech, to develop p21-activated kinase (PAK) inhibitor drugs to treat cancer.

Scientists at CRT’s Discovery Laboratories, in collaboration with Cancer Research UK-funded scientists at King’s College London, have developed the new inhibitor drugs.

PAK helps in cell growth, as well as survival, and is overexpressed in many cancers including ovarian, pancreatic, melanoma, breast and lung.

According to the CRT scientists, the PAK inhibitors will be able to block the activity of overexpressed PAK protein, thereby killing cancer cells.

"It’s fantastic to see this new investment in Cancer Research UK-funded science that has progressed through our Discovery Laboratories."

Pangaea Biotech CEO Javier Rivela said: "This strategic agreement maximises the capabilities of both parties, with CRT focusing on the earlier stages of development involving specialised medicinal chemistry work, and Pangaea on regulatory preclinical development, early stage clinical trials and development of biomarkers, where our main abilities and experience lie.

"We are excited about this partnership as it marks the beginning of what we expect to be a fruitful long-term collaboration with one of the most important global players in cancer drug development."

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As part of the deal, the Spanish biotech company will have to conduct research and development of the PAK inhibitors, taking CRT’s compounds through clinical development.

CRT business management director Dr Phil L’Huillier said: "It’s fantastic to see this new investment in Cancer Research UK-funded science that has progressed through our Discovery Laboratories.

"We look forward to working with Pangaea to develop the PAK inhibitor for clinical trials."

CRT will work in close collaboration with Pangea Biotech in a bid to complete lead optimisation, after which Pangaea will assume responsibility for pre-clinical and clinical development.