Australian vets and dog-lovers could soon have an additional weapon in their toolkit to treat cancer in dogs, courtesy of a novel therapy to be developed by oncology company PharmAust’s (ASX: PAA) wholly-owned subsidiary Pitney Pharmaceuticals, and US-based Elanco Inc.
The two companies have signed an option agreement to redevelop a drug that’s been used to treat parasites in goats and sheep, first developed by Novartis.
Monepantel represents PharmAust’s leading drug candidate, a “safe inhibitor of the mTOR pathway”, which according to the company, is a key driver of cancer in dogs.
Monepantel has already been evaluated in a phase one clinical trial in humans and dogs with the drug candidate found to be “well-tolerated and produced a significant reduction in key prognostic biomarkers”.
According to PharmAust, it is “uniquely positioned to commercialise monepantel” for treatment of human and veterinary cancers, as it advances the drug into a phase two clinical trial to be carried out in the near future.
Treating both humans and dogs
PharmAust is a clinical-stage company developing targeted cancer therapeutics for both humans and animals. Its strategy is to pick up overlooked drug candidates, already marketed but overlooked for other purposes.
The overarching goal is to repurpose drugs such as monepantel, while lowering the risks and costs of development. These efforts are supported by PharmAust’s subsidiary, Epichem, a thriving contract medicinal chemistry company which generated around A$3 million in revenues in the last financial year.
Under its newly-signed agreement, Elanco will supply PharmAust with good manufacturing practice grade (GMP-grade) monepantel for use in clinical trials in dogs to determine the anti-cancer potential of the drug.
Under the agreement, PharmAust has granted Elanco an option to negotiate for an exclusive, worldwide royalty-bearing commercial licence to use PharmAust’s intellectual property in the field of treatment of cancer in animals.
It has been stipulated that Elanco’s granted option will continue for a period no longer than six months after receipt of the final report for the relevant canine trial.
If Elanco chooses to exercise its option, the parties have agreed to enter into a negotiation period not lasting more than six months, in order to agree on the terms of the license agreement, including commercial payments to PharmAust.
If Elanco elects to forego its option and not to proceed with further development, PharmAust will be “free to seek alternative commercialisation partners” the company said.
PharmAust will manage clinical trials that will assess the efficacy and safety of monepantel in dogs diagnosed with various cancers.
The company will also fund the cost of the clinical trials and has agreed to provide Elanco with regular updates including a final report at the end of the study.
“We are delighted to have entered into this agreement with Elanco, which helps build a relationship with a potential commercial partner,” said Dr Richard Hopkins, chief executive officer of PharmAust.
“The agreement also secures PharmAust with a supply of GMP-grade monepantel for use in clinical trials for dogs with cancer,” he added.