Oncogalfarma – Development of new complementary therapies for the treatment of oncological diseases

Three Galician biotech companies are taking an interdisciplinary approach to research as a means of discovering a cure for cancer.

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Researcher in a laboratory©jarmoluk – CC0 Creative Commons Researcher in a laboratory©jarmoluk – CC0 Creative Commons

" In the Oncogalfarma programme, three Galician companies joined forces to develop a project in a collaborative and interdisciplinary way which could not have been achieved individually and required the coordination of 7 laboratories from the industry and academia.” "

Carme Pampín, CEO Galchimia

Oncological diseases such as cancer continue to plague European society. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer kills over 1.7 million Europeans every year, making it the second leading cause of death and morbidity in Europe. Even though Europe comprises only one eighth of the total global population, nearly a quarter of the total cancer cases worldwide are found here.

Medical research remains at the forefront of Europe’s fight against cancer, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies continue to invest significant resources towards the discovery and development of new anticancer medication. Specifically in Spain, three Galician biotech companies have pooled their resources and coordinated their research in order to put the region on the map of innovative drug discovery and to promote the use of interdisciplinary research as a means of discovering a cure for cancer.

The result of this initiative is the EU co-funded Oncogalfarma project.

Three is better than one

The three companies involved - GalChimia, Oncostellae and AMSLab – each brought specific competencies to the research lab. Combining its strengths in medicinal chemistry, pharmacology and bioanalysis, the project set out to design, synthesize and evaluate novel drug candidates for the treatment of cancer. To accomplish this, it studied the efficacy and possible synergy of novel inhibitors of two different therapeutic targets:

  1. Protein-protein interactions (PPI) that control cell death, and
  2. Nuclear receptors, such as the estrogen and androgen receptor, that are leading causes of prostate and breast cancer.

Results with potential

As a direct result of this research, over 100 new chemical entities (NCEs) have been synthesized – each of which are patentable and have the potential of being used in the creation of powerful new anti-cancer drugs and treatments. As to the project’s work on the modulation of nuclear receptors, researchers identified strong antagonists of the androgen receptor that block its stimulating action on prostate cancer cells. The novel compounds are structurally different from known antiandrogen drugs and therefore have the potential to avoid such common side effects as seizures, while also being capable of overcoming drug resistance.

In addition to these important medical discoveries, the Oncogalfarma project has set a new precedent for the advantages of pharma and biotech companies to look beyond traditional competition and instead combine their resources for better results. As this project has clearly shown, the discovery and development of oncological drugs is a main driver of innovation and employment – with the project itself being responsible for the creation of nine jobs – the work also comes with a high risk of failure.

For small biotech companies to succeed in this high-risk environment, collaboration and the use of private-public partnerships is key. Therefore, the consortium has integrated another partner, the Galician nanomaterials company Nanogap, and has presented a follow-up project under the name of Neogalfarma.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Oncogalfarma (Development of new complementary therapies for the treatment of oncological diseases)” is EUR 655 101, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 314 448 through the “Galicia” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date