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Consortium to Develop MicroRNA-Based Drugs for Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 28 Nov 2013
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A consortium of biotechnology companies and medical centers from The Netherlands, Germany, and Israel has been granted funding from the European Union’s FP7 program to develop a new class of highly selective targeted therapeutics for the treatment of head and neck cancer based on novel tumor-selective lethal micro RNAs (miRNAs).

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and since patients with this type of cancer often present with advanced stages of disease, the five-year survival rate is less than 60%.

miRNAs are snippets of about 20 nucleotides that block gene expression by attaching to molecules of messenger RNA (mRNA) in a fashion that prevents them from transmitting the protein synthesizing instructions they had received from the DNA. Considerable effort is going into development of clinical therapeutic applications for miRNAs.

The new project, which is known by the acronym MiRacle, brings together the biopharmaceutical companies InteRNA Technologies BV (Nijmegen, The Netherlands); Quiet Therapeutics (Ness Ziona, Israel); BioSpring (Frankfurt, Germany); OctoPlus (Leiden, The Netherlands); and LPT (Hamburg, German) and the Dutch medical center, VU University Medical Center (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

The MiRacle consortium, which has been awarded an SME (small manufacturing entity) grant of about 1.2 million euros, will call upon its members for synthesis of biochemically active miRNAs, expertise in drug formulation for the specific delivery of therapeutic miRNA into humans, understanding of synthesis of complex drug formulations, preclinical testing, and conducting of toxicity tests that are required for RNA based drug registration.

Roel Schaapveld, CEO of InteRNA Technologies, said, “The unique tumor-selective lethal miRNAs identified display a very interesting biology and potential therapeutic effect that warrants further development towards the clinic. This FP7 grant exemplifies that with this consortium we have all the expertise in place to bring a tumor killing miRNA in a targeted and safe manner towards registration for first in human testing.”

“This FP7 grant enables the next step in the translation of the tumor-selective lethal microRNAs that we discovered,” said Dr. Ruud Brakenhof, professor of cancer genetics at VU University Medical Center.

Related Links:

InteRNA Technologies BV
Quiet Therapeutics

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