BGN Technologies, BGU's technology transfer company, announced yesterday (Monday) that it has entered into an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Vaxil Bio (TSX VENTURE: VXL), a biotech company focusing on innovative immunotherapy treatments for cancer and infectious diseases, for the development and commercialization of targeted cancer therapy.
The technology features a new E-selectin targeted polymer for the inhibition of tumor growth and metastatic spread of cancer. It was invented by Prof. Ayelet David of the Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Prof. Gonen Ashkenasy of the Department of Chemistry and their joint PhD student Yosi Shamay all at BGU.
Selectins are a family of cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) that mediate the interaction between circulating cells and the blood vessel endothelium. E-selectin is a cytokine-inducible CAM expressed only on the surface of inflamed blood vessels, which mobilizes leukocyte and cancer cells into inflamed and cancerous areas, and further promotes cancer cell metastasis.
The BGU researchers developed a new synthetic polymer that can target E-selectin with high affinity for delivering drugs to tumors and metastatic sites . Using primary and metastatic models of cancer, this approach showed promising therapeutic results, enhancing drug accumulation in tumors, decreasing significantly the rate of tumor growth in preclinical trials, and dramatically prolonging the survival of mice with melanoma lung metastases .
"One of the greatest challenges in developing drugs for the treatment of cancer is delivering the therapy to the cancerous cells without damaging healthy cells and organs," said Dr. Ora Horovitz, Senior Vice President Business Development at BGN Technologies. "The polymer developed by researchers at BGU targets only inflamed blood vessels, thus offering the opportunity to deliver drugs selectively to inflamed and cancerous lesions, without harming healthy tissues."
Another promising application involves the use of this E-selectin-binding polymer, without drug cargos, to interfere with E-selectin-mediated interactions, thus blocking leukocyte and cancer cells recruitment to inflamed and cancerous tissues. This approach was shown to reduce colonization of circulating cancer cells in the lungs  and was also shown to inhibit leukocytes recruitment and inflammation in animal models of liver injury  and atherosclerosis .
"The "drug-free" polymer therapeutic strategy is considered very safe as the polymer lacks conventional therapeutic agents," stated Prof. David. "Moreover, since the "drug-free" polymer becomes effective without entering cells, its simplicity, as compared with other polymeric systems which have to enter the cells, offers great promise for the management of cancer and inflammation."
"We are very excited about the opportunity to work with Prof. David and together to increase the impact we can have on helping patients with significant unmet needs in oncology and beyond," said David Goren, Chief Executive Officer, Vaxil Bio. "Prof. David and her team have developed a promising technology platform that when combined with our platform, knowledge and experience will allow us to progress the science of treating cancer with immunotherapy."