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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

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Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 30, 2006

Blow The Trumpets

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Posted by Derek

Here's my latest contender for an award in the highly competitive Desperate Press Releases category: Albany Molecular says that it has an anticancer compound. Well, it has one that's going to move into "advanced preclinical testing", and if everything goes perfectly, they'll try to submit an IND by the end of 2007. Which means that the first bit of Phase I testing, the toe-in-the-water look at blood levels, can be realistically expected no sooner than sometime in 2008.

The headline is "Albany Molecular to Test Cancer Compound", which the unwary might suppose means that they're going to test it against, well, human cancer. But who knows when that might happen, because I read the press release to mean that the compound hasn't even gone through real small-animal toxicity testing. Is that a long way from human cancer patients? Is Auckland a long way from Albany?

Now, I understand that AMRI hasn't been down this road too many times before. Looking at this chart, it appears that this project is the most advanced they have, and I don't recall them ever heading for the clinic before. That's because the company has been mainly an outsourcing venture, a place to get compounds and libraries made for you. With that business model under pressure, they've decided to give in to temptation and become a drug company.

It's not an easy living, and they're just getting started at it. The programs they have listed are all at the seedling stage, just barely edging into reality by the standards of people who've seen things crash in Phase III. There are probably plenty of people at AMRI who feel the same way, actually - I know that they have a number of scientists and managers who've worked at other drug companies over the years. They know the score, even if their PR department doesn't.

The compound being trumpeted today is said to be a tubulin inhibitor, which puts it in the same class as the taxanes. That's an interesting cancer target, and it's not always easy to get good chemical matter against it. Still, there have been a lot of compounds reported over the years, many of which have never been heard from again. Here's a recent review (PDF, which may be subscriber-only) on the compounds that are already in the clinic. It's a tough area, and not exactly an uncrowded one.

But really, good luck, guys. I hope the compound makes it through the mice, and the rats, and the dogs, and histopathology and formulation and GMP scale-up and all the rest of the whirlpools. Just try not to press-release the world every step of the way, OK?

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Cancer


1. Kinasepro on October 30, 2006 10:00 PM writes...

Albany has some good guys...

My thoughts on the PR - Well its win win for them. They get their name out there, and just about all biotech has a press release when they nominate a preclinical candidate. I think much of that is either an announncement that they're willing to part with it at the right price, or bragging rights that they just hit a milestone.

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2. Jose on October 30, 2006 11:10 PM writes...

Yup, there are some good folks at AMRI, but the management is a posse of jackals and buffoons. I suspect they are simply trying to prop up the sagging stock price, grasping at straws, as their entire business model evaporates.

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3. Anonymous on October 30, 2006 11:17 PM writes...

I thought that you might post on Merck buying SIRNA for 1.1B. Talk about desperation!

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4. Natural Products Chemist on October 31, 2006 8:08 AM writes...

Sadly, the review you cite on tubulin compounds mentions the discodermalides, the epothilones, but fails to mention what I think is the most exciting new tubulin inhibitor to come along in a decade - E7389. Check out the following news release, for example. The agent is synthetic analog of the right half of halichondrin.

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5. Kay on October 31, 2006 8:10 AM writes...

I thought that competing with your customers was verbotten?

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6. Derek Lowe on October 31, 2006 8:47 AM writes...

This compound is part of a development deal with BMS - who have their own tubulin program, or did last time I looked, which may be what Kay is referring to.

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7. Ashutosh on October 31, 2006 12:35 PM writes...

Dictyostatin too is a promising molecule. There's also groups touting the common anti-tussive drug Noscapine (and its analogs) used in cough syrups as Tubulin inhibitors.

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8. Basty on November 3, 2006 3:46 AM writes...

Not sure if they are totally new to this game, AMRI does have one candidate outlicensed, its called Allegra, marketed by Sanofi Aventis. However the revenues are declining as the generics move in, hence the share price collapse and general business pressure, leading to desperate press releases.

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