Pharma

Yale spinoff licenses HER3 cancer drug from MedImmune, plans for Phase 1 trials in 2014

A cancer drug startup spun out of the Yale School of Medicine has licensed the rights to develop and test a drug candidate from MedImmune designed to target a receptor that’s been connected to various cancers including breast, lung, ovary and colon. Kolltan Pharmaceuticals hopes to have its lead candidate, which targets the HER3 receptor […]

A cancer drug startup spun out of the Yale School of Medicine has licensed the rights to develop and test a drug candidate from MedImmune designed to target a receptor that’s been connected to various cancers including breast, lung, ovary and colon.

Kolltan Pharmaceuticals hopes to have its lead candidate, which targets the HER3 receptor tyrosine kinase, in Phase 1 clinical trials in the first quarter of 2014. Company execs declined to specify which applications they’ll go after but said they believe the candidate has “broad potential” for treating cancer patients.

Under the deal with MedImmune, which is the global biologics R&D arm of AstraZeneca, both companies will have the potential for cost-, risk- and profit-sharing after early clinical testing. Financial details of the licensing agreement were not made public.

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Kolltan was established in 2007 in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Joseph Schlessinger at Yale School of Medicine to develop new biologic drugs that target receptor tyrosine kinases.

Tyrosine kinases emerged more than a decade ago as clinically useful drug targets for treating certain kinds of cancers, and although  drugs that interfere with them have generally been successful, Kolltan says some patients experience resistance in later dosing cycles. The company thinks its mechanism of action will be unaffected by such resistance.

The New Haven, Connecticut-based company has raised at least $50 million from investors including Purdue Pharma, HBM BioCapital, Celtic Therapeutics Management, Tichenor Ventures and Osage University Partners. Its president and CEO, Jerry McMahon, joined Kolltan from MedImmune last year, where he was senior vice president of R&D oncology.