Xenograft technology firm will be paid nearly $1.4 million over the next year plus potentially $27 million in milestones.

Cephalon is paying Champions Biotechnology $1.39 million over the next year as part of a collaboration to evaluate the potential clinical activity of Cephalon’s CEP-32496 and CEP-37440 cancer compounds using Champions’ preclinical Tumorgraft™ technology platform. CEP-32496 is a B-Raf inhibitor, and CEP-37440 is a dual ALK-FAK inhibitor. The project will be used to help guide the future clinical development of both compounds, by providing indications of drug activity and tumor response. Champions could earn up to another $27 million in milestone payments, and under certain conditions may also receive royalties on relevant commercialized products. The deal with Cephalon is Champions’ largest translational oncology services contract to date.

Tumorgraft is a preclinical xenograft platform that involves the implantation of primary human tumors in immune-deficient mice within hours of the sample being taken from the patient. The resulting xenografts (Biomerk Tumorgrafts™) are not passaged in cell tissue culture, and are propagated such that the biological characteristics of the original human tumor are preserved, Champions claims. The firm believes the response of Tumorgrafts to drug candidates is more predictive of clinical outcomes in cancer patients than traditional xenograft technologies.

“Our collaboration with Champions Biotechnology significantly compliments our oncology discovery capabilities by providing wider access to more clinically relevant and predictive preclinical oncology models,” states Jeffry Vaught, Cephalon’s executive vp for R&D. “Champions’ technology platform will enable us to more effectively select the subsets of specific human cancers most likely to respond to our novel targeted therapeutic agents and identify the underlying cancer genotypes associated with drug sensitivity and resistance to chemotherapeutics.”

Champions is exploiting its Tumorgraft platform both through evaluation services, and for identifying potential anticancer drugs and biomarkers for companion diagnostics. The firm aims to acquire or partner a portfolio of cancer drugs through preclinical development, and then license out promising candidates for clinical development.

Champions already has the rights to two benzoylphenylurea (BPU) sulfur analogs, SG410 and SG430, which it claims have shown promising in vivo and in vitro activity against prostate and pancreatic cancer. Tumorgraft models suggest both compounds target microtubule associated protein tau (MAPT) deficient tumors.

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