Aeterna Zentaris wins grant to develop anti-cancer compounds

New cytotoxic conjugates and diagnostic tools to be developed to expand AEZS-108 technology platform

Canadian late-stage oncology drug developer Aeterna Zentaris has been awarded a US$1.5m grant from the German Ministry of Education and Research to develop, up to the clinical stage, cytotoxic conjugates of the proprietary cytotoxic compound disorazol Z and peptides targeting G-protein coupled receptors, including the LHRH receptors. The compounds will combine the targeting successfully employed in Phase II trials with AEZS-108 (doxorubicin and LHRH-receptor targeting agent) with the new cytotoxic disorazol Z.

Diagnostic tools to assess the receptor expression in tumour specimens will also be developed.

The grant will be payable as a partial reimbursement of qualifying expenditures over a three-year period.

Aeterna Zentaris will conduct the project with Morphisto in Frankfurt and the Helmholtz Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany, which will receive additional funding of approximately US$700,000. Researchers from the department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at both the University of Göttingen and Würzburg, Germany, will also be part of the collaboration.

Juergen Engel, ceo of Aeterna Zentaris, said: ‘Using this funding, we will be able, with the help of our highly qualified partners, to rapidly translate this technology into the clinical setting and will expand our AEZS-108 technology platform.’

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