Aeterna Zentaris has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to develop cytotoxic peptide conjugates of disorazol Z that target GPCRs, including LHRH receptors. Diagnostic tools will be developed alongside the therapeutic program to evaluate receptor expression in tumor specimens and help select patients most likely to benefit from the treatment approach.
Aeterna says the anticancer project aims to develop compounds that marry disorazol Z with the targeting principle employed in Phase II studies with its existing AEZS-108 candidate. AEZS-108 combines doxorubicin with an LHRH receptor-targeting synthetic peptide carrier, and has completed Phase II studies in ovarian and endometrial cancer.
The disorazol Z program will be carried out in partnership with Germany-based Morphisto and the Helmholtz Institute, which will receive additional funding of about $0.7 million. “This $1.5 million grant for the development of our disorazol Z conjugates is further acknowledgement of our innovative targeting concept,” comments Juergen Engel, Ph.D., Aeterna’s CEO. “Using this funding we will be able, with the help of our highly qualified partners, to rapidly translate this technology into the clinical setting and will expand our AEZS-108 platform.”
Disarozol Z is a bacterially derived compound that shows cytotoxic activity at the sub-nanomolar range, Aeterna explains. The firm says preclinical proof-of-concept studies in a xenograft mouse model have confirmed the potential to use LHRH receptor-targeting disorazol Z conjugates for the treatment of ovarian cancer.