Incanthera said it acquired Onco-NX, a drug discovery spinout from the University of Salford (U.K.), creating a combined company of university spinouts specializing in targeted drugs to fight cancer.

The price was not disclosed for the deal, which Incanthera said was the first successful sale of a spinout from Salford.

Launched in 2011, Onco-NX has focused on developing drugs that selectively target tumor cells without harming healthy cells thus minimizing or even eliminating undesired side effects. Onco-NX is currently developing three new pro-drugs activated by DT-Diaphorase, an enzyme that is over-expressed in many human solid tumors.

The most advanced of Onco-DX’s preclinical drugs, Stilbenes, has reached pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) and optimization and toxicology phases. Of the two other compounds, Es5, is in in vitro development, while Pd(II) has been in the discovery phase, Onco-DX stated on its website.

The company has sought to license its preclinical drug candidates to drug development companies for clinical evaluation: “Onco-NX expects that at least one of the lead compounds will show excellent bioproperties and will be licensed out to a multinational pharma company for further development,” the company website added.

Incanthera was launched in 2010 by the University of Bradford (U.K.)’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, hence the company name. Incanthera’s lead cancer therapeutic is a new chemical entity called ICT2588, designed to attack all forms of solid tumors while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.

Nicknamed a “smart bomb,” ICT2588 is an autumn crocus-derived drug that becomes active or “detonates” after coming into contact with an enzyme released by a cancerous tumor; the drug breaks up blood vessels sustaining the cancer and starves it. The targeted vascular disrupting agent was developed by the institute with funding from the cancer research and awareness charity Cancer Research UK, as well as Yorkshire Cancer Research and the University of Bradford.

“We’re currently working on a number of new promising anticancer agents and have two drugs which are being prepared for clinical trials,” Incanthera CEO Simon Ward, D.Phil., said in a statement. “Our long-term ambition is to have these drugs licensed out to a multinational pharmaceutical company for further development. Our ultimate aim is to hit the healthcare market with these drugs and make a real difference in the universal fight against cancer.”

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