Polish drug discovery company Selvita is partnering with cancer-focused firm Felicitex Therapeutics to develop personalized therapeutics for quiescent cancers including pancreatic, colon, ovarian, lung, and hematopoietic tumors. The companies say this alliance will combine Felicitex’ experience in targeting cancer quiescence with Selvita’s knowledge of cancer quiescence target kinases.

Felicitex is granting Selvita research funding and a value share in joint projects, which may in the future be monetized through milestone payments from Felicitex or a portion of revenues from programs partnered by Felicitex. The first research period will be 15 months, and Felicitex has an option to extend the collaboration for additional 12 months. Selvita will also receive royalties after any drugs discovered through the collaboration have been approved.

The companies will aim during the first phase of the collaboration to discover and develop selective inhibitors of the cancer quiescence target kinase family to generate drug candidates. The firms are already planning future projects to take on other targets related to cancer quiescence. The ultimate goal will be to deliver clinical candidates for unmet oncology indications. 

Quiescent cancer cells are dormant, nonresponsive cells that don't divide and are therefore invulnerable to common treatments like chemotherapy. Cancer cells will sometimes enter a quiescent state when under stress from chemotherapy, radiation, and other therapies, “going to sleep” to hide. Felicitex has a technology that it says can target quiescent cancer cells with two positive outcomes: first making cancer cells vulnerable to conventional treatments, then preventing them from hiding in the quiescent state for an indeterminate period of time.  

“Cancer cell quiescence is a major and as yet unaddressed mechanism of cancer resistance,” Felicitex' founder, CEO, and scientific director Maria Vilenchik, Ph.D., said in a statement. “At Felicitex we strive to develop treatments for some of the deadliest and most resistant-to-therapy cancers, among which pancreatic cancer is particularly vicious. Our collaboration with Selvita creates the opportunity to identify novel therapeutic solutions and bring hope to cancer patients.”