Alethia Biotherapeutics and NRC join forces to attack cancer cells head-on

Collaboration accelerates therapeutic product development and commercial partnership

November 15, 2013— Montréal, Quebec

Today, cancer accounts for one in every eight deaths worldwide – more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. And this international epidemic is growing at dramatic rate. It is a global challenge that demands the brilliant minds, technologies and innovative approaches.

Enter Alethia Biotherapeutics. This Montreal firm is discovering disease-related genes, and validating their use as targets for the development of new therapies for cancer and other diseases. These treatments hold great potential for patients – and significant market potential for this Canadian firm. According to a report by Visiongain, the world market for anti-cancer agents will exceed $116 billion by 2017Footnote 1. The National Research Council Canada (NRC) is helping Alethia to capitalize on these opportunities.

Alethia specializes in monoclonal antibody therapy. A monoclonal antibody is a large laboratory-produced molecule that's carefully engineered to bind to specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells. When a monoclonal antibody attaches to a cancer cell, it can make the cancer cell more visible to the immune system; block growth signals; stop new blood vessels from forming; or deliver radiation or a toxic agent to cancer cells to contribute to their destructionFootnote 2.

"NRC extended our R&D team, and catalyzed the transformation of our company from a pure target discovery company to a therapeutic product development firm."

Yves Cornellier,
President and CEO, Alethia Biotherapeutics

This innovation has catalyzed the launch of some successful products. It is a promising therapy – but one that demands unique expertise, costly R&D infrastructure and extensive resources. It is a tall order for an emerging biotherapeutics company such as Alethia. In its quest to discover, develop and commercialize highly effective monoclonal antibody therapies, the firm established a strategic partnership with NRC during its earliest stage of development. As part of this collaboration, Alethia licensed antibodies developed by Dr. Maureen O'Connor and her research team at NRC. These antibodies have the potential to enhance a patient's response to chemotherapy and inhibit further cancer growth – and they are at the heart of Alethia's therapeutic products.

The company has also leveraged the expertise of Drs. Traian Sulea and Bernard Massie in the humanization of antibodies and the development of high yield cell lines for large-scale manufacturing of its monoclonal antibodies. During the initial stages of development, monoclonal antibodies are raised in mice. Scientists must replace key parts of the mouse antibodies with human components prior to commercialization as the body recognizes them as a foreign substance.

"We have worked closely with NRC for more than six years and licensed several NRC innovations that are used in our laboratories," said Mr. Yves Cornellier, President and CEO of Alethia Biotherapeutics. "As a small firm, it is impossible to establish all the internal capabilities required to develop therapeutic products. NRC extended our R&D team, and catalyzed the transformation of our company from a pure target discovery company to a therapeutic product development firm. This accelerated the development of our therapeutics, leading to a global co-development and commercial partnership with the International Biotechnology Centre (IBC) Generium of Russia."

"NRC has undoubtedly contributed to our growth, accelerated our time to clinic and enabled our company to compete with the best biotherapeutic firms in the world."

Yves Cornellier,
President and CEO, Alethia Biotherapeutics

As part of this global alliance, the companies will jointly develop an innovative antibody that inhibits the invasion of cancer cells and share future product revenues. IBC Generium aims to exclusively market this product in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, for which development milestones and royalties will be payable to Alethia.

"This market alone is valued in the tens of millions of dollars," said Mr. Cornellier. "In addition to the revenue we received at the time of agreement signature, future revenues will enable Alethia to develop new therapeutics that promise to benefit cancer patients. NRC has undoubtedly contributed to our growth, accelerated our time to clinic and enabled our company to compete with the best biotherapeutic firms in the world."

Contact

Yves Quenneville
Client Relationship Leader
National Research Council of Canada
Telephone: 514-496-8507
Email: Yves.Quenneville@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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