Rexahn Pharmaceuticals said today it signed an exclusive license with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) for use of a drug delivery platform designed to target the delivery of current chemotherapeutic agents directly into cancerous tumors. The value of the license was not disclosed.

Rexahn’s first drug developed using the Nano-Polymer-Drug Conjugate Systems (NPDCS) platform is RX-21101, a polymer conjugated form of docetaxel that in preclinical studies showed increased efficacy and reduced toxicity compared with docetaxel alone. RX-21101 is designed to increase antitumor activity by maximizing the concentration of docetaxel in the cancer tumor rather than circulating freely in the blood, where the chemo agent’s toxicity to all cells has linked it with high incidences of adverse events that include anemia, infection, fever, neutropenia, neuropathy, asthenia, edema, alopecia, nausea, and vomiting.

NPDCS combines existing chemotherapeutic agents with a polymer carrier that contains a signaling moiety, which directs a drug into a tumor. NPDCS joins Rexahn’s family of drug discovery platforms, which include The Inhibitors of Multi-Expression Signals (TIMES), which applies small molecule inhibitors to multiple signaling molecules; and 3D-GOLD, which uses three-dimensional models to predict the structural activity relationship of molecules.

“The NPDCS platform represents a significant advancement in targeted delivery of chemotherapeutic agents directly to cancer tumors,” Hamid Ghandehari, Ph.D., co-developer of the NPDCS technology and a professor in the University of Utah’s departments of pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry and bioengineering. “Other approaches have not been able to combine the controlled, targeted release of existing chemotherapeutic directly to the cancerous tumor.”

Initial funding for developing NPDCS came through the University of Maryland’s Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, which awarded Rexahn $217,761 in 2008.

Rexahn considers NPDCS complementary to its three clinical-stage compounds, all with oncology indications: Archexin®, an orphan-designated drug that blocks production of the molecule Akt1, linked to uncontrolled tumor growth; RX-3117, a small molecule compound developed with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries that inhibits DNA and RNA synthesis and induces apoptotic cell death through activation by a UCK enzyme; and RX-5902, an oral first-in-class small molecule that inhibits the phosphorylated p68 RNA helicase.

“Rexahn looks forward to utilizing the NPDCS platform to develop multiple development candidates for either internal development or outlicensing,” Rexahn CEO Peter D. Suzdak, Ph.D., said in the statement.

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