Grifols the world’s third largest plasma product manufacturer and a pioneer in the research and development of therapeutic alternatives designed to contribute to both scientific and social development, has acquired 40% of the equity of Catalan biotechnology firm VCN Biosciences, dedicated to the research and development of new therapeutic approaches for tumors for which there is no effective treatment. It focuses specifically on the development of new cancer treatment agents based on highly selective oncolytic adenoviruses with the potential to be deployed against tumors.
The company’s most advanced project focuses on the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Grifols’ participation in the equity of VCN Biosciences will enable the firm to continue to develop this new therapeutic approach, currently at the preclinical phase and scheduled to enter the clinical phase in 2013. In 2011 it received Orphan Drug designation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), due to the fact that amongst other the prevalence of pancreatic cancer in the European Union is estimated at 60,000 patients.
Grifols completed the operation by acquiring a share in the company through Grifols subsidiary Gri-Cel S.A., an investment vehicle created to promote Grifols’ participation in R&D projects in fields of medicine, which lie outside the scope of its main activities, such as advanced therapies. This latest investment is part of the group’s commitment to promoting innovative technologies that provide responses to unresolved medical problems, such as some types of cancer, including pancreatic.
Following the operation, Grifols holds 40% of the capital of VCN Biosciences, and is committed to ongoing investment subject to the successful development of viral therapy candidates. VCN Bioscience plans to relocate from its current offices at the Biopol complex in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat to Grifols’ corporate facilities at Sant Cugat del Vallès in the medium term.
Private investment to guarantee the development of innovative viral therapy to fight cancer
Grifols’ participation in the ownership of VCN Biosciences will ensure the viability of the company’s current projects and enable it to continue to develop new viral therapy treatments for cancer.
VCN Biosciences uses oncolytic adenovirus as the platform for generating its viral therapy candidates. Viral therapy is a therapeutic approach for the treatment of cancer, based on the use of oncolytic viruses that are capable of replicating and selectively destroying tumor cells. This new type of anti-carcinogenic agent is based on a unique mode of action with respect to traditional anti-tumor drugs, which is the capacity to self-amplify and propagate the oncolytic effect.
VCN Biosciences currently has exclusive rights of two patent licenses for independent technologies developed by the viral therapy group of the Catalan Oncology Institute (ICO-IDIBELL). These enhance the anti-tumor potential of oncolytic adenoviruses.
One of these, the hyaluronidase technology, is incorporated in VCN Biosciences’ most advanced clinical candidate: VCN-01, for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In addition, design and development of other viral candidates constitute promising alternatives for the treatment of refractory tumors.
VCN-01 is an adenovirus that replicates selectively in tumor cells and expresses the human hyaluronidase enzyme, an enzyme that acts by breaking down hyaluronic acid, a structural component of the extracellular matrix of the tumor. Various studies have shown that hyaluronic acid creates a dense framework that increases interstitial pressure in tumor tissue, preventing the diffusion of drugs and their access to tumor cells. Some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, have a high concentration of hyaluronic acid, and this is correlated with their invasive capacity and resistance to chemotherapy. The breakdown of this framework facilitates dissemination of the virus throughout the tumor and the accession to chemotherapy. VCN-01 is currently at the final stage of preclinical development, with the clinical phase scheduled to start in 2013 for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.