With the continual need to fill their therapeutic pipelines, major biopharma companies are constantly on the lookout to forge key strategic partnerships with smaller biotech companies that have promising alternative therapeutic options in development. A relatively recent trend is the partnering of biopharma companies with nanomedicine startups. As more nanotechnology-related drugs are transitioning from the lab to the clinic, interest in nanomedicine and it’s potential to treat cancer is growing. Some of the major biopharma companies who have recently shown interest in nanomedicine include AstraZeneca, Amgen, Pfizer, Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline. Here I will briefly discuss some of the partnerships that these companies have forged.
In December 2012, AstraZeneca announced a partnership with Cytimmune to develop multifunctional gold nanoparticles for treating cancer. The gold nanoparticles from Cytimmune are coated to prevent the patient’s immune system interacting with the nanoparticles and can have cancer-targeting agents and cancer therapeutic agents co-attached enabling delivery of the cancer drug to the tumor.
In April 2013, AstraZeneca announced a strategic collaboration with BIND Therapeutics to perform Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling studies on molecularly targeted kinase inhibitor therapies for cancer. The engineered nanoparticle drug delivery platform developed by BIND has garnered much interest recently from several biopharma companies. BIND’s platform enables preferential accumulation of the desired cancer drug within tumors reducing off-target side effects while delivering more potent amounts of the drug to the tumor for a more efficient cancer-killing effect.
In January 2013, Amgen and BIND Therapeutics executed an agreement worth at least $180 million representing one of the first major deals between a large biopharma company and a nanomedicine startup company. Similar to the AstraZeneca deal, Amgen will be using BIND’s nanoparticle platform to target their kinase inhibitor cancer drugs to tumors.
In April 2013, Pfizer announced a $210 million partnership with BIND Therapeutics for development work using the BIND engineered nanoparticle platform to deliver various cancer drugs developed by Pfizer. The companies are working together on preclinical efforts with Pfizer getting exclusive options of which candidate therapies will proceed through clinical trials and commercialization.
Nanotechnology for Cancer - still early but heading in the right direction
These recent deals between major biopharma companies and emerging nanomedicine companies are evidence of the growing interest in nanotechnology for medicine, especially in the area of cancer therapy. Many more developments are ongoing in startup companies and in the academic world. Most cancer nanomedicine developments are still in the preclinical stages although some of these agreements have now helped take promising nanoparticle therapies into clinical trials. With the high cost of taking new therapies through clinical trials, partnerships between the nanomedicine developers and the major biopharma companies are critical and necessary to bring these promising solutions to cancer patients. The fact that these major companies are now investing hundreds of millions of dollars into cancer nanomedicine brings tremendous promise to the field and validation of nanotechnology-based approaches to medicine. Now we must watch and see how the clinical trials pan out.