A new cancer therapeutics company, Vescor LLC, has been established by MD Anderson Cancer Center, Deerfield Management, and two leading researchers in the field of autophagy to discover and develop autophagy-targeting drugs against a range of tumor types. Vescor’s scientific founders are Eileen White, Ph.D., deputy director and associate director for Basic Science, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Alec Kimmelman, M.D., Ph.D., chairman, Department of Radiation Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center and a member of the Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone.

Vescor aims to identify small-molecule inhibitors of key proteins in the autophagy cascade and progress candidates through to clinical development against melanoma, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Core activities will be carried out at MD Anderson's Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS), where Vescor will be able to tap into the Institute's drug discovery, development, and translational research expertise. Both the IACS and Deerfield will provide managerial and operational knowhow. The expectation is that Vescor will generate at least one IND-ready candidate in an expedited timeframe. “Our goal is to drive novel drug discovery paradigms and develop cancer therapeutics targeting unexplored mechanisms that might provide high clinical impact,” stated Phil Jones, Ph.D., IACS executive director and head of drug discovery.”

Autophagy has been identified as a key process cancer development, maintenance, and drug resistance, the scientists claim. “Numerous preclinical studies have now shown a requirement for autophagy in sustaining tumor growth, including pancreatic cancer, as well as in providing a mechanism of resistance to a number of currently used therapies,” Kimmelman commented. “We believe Vescor will identify opportunities to significantly advance the treatment of cancer through manipulating autophagy and thus restore cellular homeostasis, leading to the potential reduction of cancer disease burden,” added William Slattery, partner at Deerfield.

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