Starpharma and Medicxi partner to create UK-based oncology company called Petalion Therapeutics

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By Imelda Cotton - 
Starpharma ASX SPL Medicxi Petalion Therapeutics merger

Australian biotech Starpharma Holdings (ASX: SPL) has entered into a strategic partnership with UK life sciences investment firm Medicxi to establish a UK-based company known as Petalion Therapeutics.

Petalion will initially focus on developing novel targeted dendrimer-drug conjugate therapies for the treatment of cancers with unmet needs, utilising Starpharma’s proprietary DEP (dendrimer enhanced product) platform technology.

Dendrimers are highly-defined macromolecules that are useful in cancer treatment for targeting tumour cells, controlling the release of anti-cancer agents and combining anti-cancer strategies.

Starpharma’s platform is used to enhance the effectiveness of existing and novel therapies and reduce drug-related toxicities through controlled and specified drug delivery.

Tranched investment plan

Under the terms of the deal, Medicxi will fund Petalion through a tranched investment plan of up to $38 million for the development of a novel oncology drug candidate.

Starpharma will license certain intellectual property to Petalion as required for the research, development, manufacture and commercialisation of the new therapeutic and will receive an equity holding of 22.5% in Petalion in return.

Starpharma will also provide research and development services to Petalion on a fee-for-service basis.

New treatment options

Starpharma chief executive officer Cheryl Maley said the strategic partnership would benefit the development of new cancer treatment options to replace current approaches.

“This deal combines our expertise in developing dendrimer technology with Medicxi’s success in converting development candidates into high-value commercial assets,” she said.

“The oncology therapies that Petalion will develop have the potential to become an important treatment modality for a potentially wide range of cancer indications.”

“Medicxi is a highly innovative organisation with extensive experience in drug development and commercialisation.”

“Its investment in this partnership validates the strong potential of our DEP technology as a novel drug delivery platform.”

CEO appointment

Starpharma has appointed pharmaceutical executive Dr Mehdi Shahidi as Petalion’s chief executive officer.

A clinical oncologist by profession, Dr Shahidi has over two decades of experience in pharmaceutical drug development, most recently with German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim.

Dr Shahidi said he was honoured to be leading the “groundbreaking endeavour” created by Medicxi and Starpharma.

“Leveraging Starpharma’s technology and the scientific domain expertise from Medicxi’s asset-centric investment platform, Petalion aims to develop best-in-class dendrimer conjugates with differentiated properties,” he said.

“Our ultimate goal is to cultivate a targeted dendrimer-based drug that can effectively address unmet needs in cancer.”