Chinese firm aims to develop antibodies, NCEs, and naturally derived drugs against ER-α36 variant for multiple diseases.

Chinese cancer drug development firm Shenogen Pharma has selected CRO Shanghai ChemPartner to generate monoclonal antibodies against its estrogen receptor ER-α36 target for the potential treatment of cancer. Shanghai ChemPartner is the contract research subsidiary of drug discovery and development services firm ShangPharma.

Under terms of the deal ChemPartner will carry out a range of drug discovery activities related to antibody drug development including target protein production and cell-line development, lead antibody generation and optimization, assay development, protein analytics, DMPK, and in vivo pharmacology.

Shenogen says it evaluated a number of potential antibody development partners before selecting ChemPartner for the ER-α36 project. “We decided to work with ChemPartner’s biologics services team because they have the required therapeutic antibody drug research and development experience, expertise, and people to support our therapeutic antibody program,” remarks Xueming Qian, Ph.D., Shenogen’s vp of biology and antibody technology.

Beijing-based Shenogen has been established to develop small molecule and biologic drugs targeting the ER-α36 variant discovered by the firm’s scientists. Leveraging its expertise in traditional Chinese herbal formulations with receptor-based bioassays, Shenogen has screened a number of naturally derived bioactive chemical compounds that specifically target the novel ER receptor, and the firm is using relevant chemical structures to develop a pipeline of drug candidates including synthetic and natural compounds as well as monoclonal antibodies. Initial indications include breast cancer, osteoporosis, and leukemia.

Lead natural compound-derived small molecule SNG-162 is currently in Phase I clinical trials as a potential treatment for breast cancer. A second natural compound-derived small molecule, SNG-163, is approaching clinical development, also for the breast cancer indication. Additional NCEs and monoclonal antibodies for breast cancer, and NCEs for osteoporosis and leukemia, are at the discovery stage.

Shenogen claims ER-α36 could have separate utility as a breast cancer biomarker and is looking to develop monoclonal and polyclonal antibody-based diagnostics for breast cancer stratification. It claims ER-α36 is expressed in both ER-α66 positive and ER-α66 negative, as well as in Her2 positive and Her2 negative, breast cancers. In 2009, the firm published a retrospective study of over 1,200 breast cancer patients suggesting that ER-α36 expression correlates with a worse disease prognosis and acts as an independent diagnostic and prognostic biomarker. The research showed that women with ER-α36–positive tumors that also express high levels of ER-α36 are less likely to benefit from tamoxifen treatment.

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