One of the first project i&i Prague participated in is Dracen Pharmaceuticals. Dracen itself started as an international science team at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB Prague) and Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA). The scientific team prepared and tested new substances for cancer treatment that are effective through stopping the metabolism of glutamine.
i&i Prague joined in this spin-off company early summer of 2017 as a co-investor. This investment opportunity and quality of the technology itself attracted investors supporting the development of these new drugs in the amount of more than $40 millions including the leading investor Deerfield.
Dracen is a now a private pharmaceutical company focused on treating cancers by directly shrinking tumors and remodeling the tumor microenvironment to make it more conducive to immuno-oncology approaches, to gain greater disease control, increase anti-tumor responses and extend patient survival in areas of unmet need.
“Our new substances, glutamine antagonist, bypass these limitations. In order to be effective, they need to be activated first and this activation occurs primarily in cancer cells. Thus in healthy tissue these substances remain largely only in an inactive form,” explains Dr. Pavel Majer from IOCB Prague, whose team prepared the substances in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Drug Discovery team.
“Together with our colleagues from Johns Hopkins, we have demonstrated that this mechanism works in a number of types of tumors implanted in mice. Since the metabolism of rodents differs significantly from human metabolism, we also had to perform a number of metabolic studies in larger mammalian species,” adds Pavel Majer.
Dracen Pharmaceuticals is a great example of how an academic cooperation between renowned research facilities led to a functional spin-off which attracted major investors. Right now the Dracen Pharmaceuticals develops the lead candidate, DRP-104 on its way through the pre-clinical to clinical testing. Similarly to many patients, we believe they will reach another milestone soon.