MMRF PRESS RELEASES
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Awards $1 million Each in Funding to ProChon Biotech and Semafore Pharmaceuticals to Advance Drug Development
NORWALK, CT — December 5, 2006
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), the largest non-profit foundation dedicated to accelerating a cure for multiple myeloma, today announced that Semafore Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and ProChon Biotech Ltd. are the recipients of the organization's first LEAD (Leveraging Existing Multiple Myeloma Targets to Accelerate Drug Discovery and Development) research and development grants.
The MMRF's LEAD program is a multi-year research grant commitment intended to drive and accelerate the development of innovative and effective multiple myeloma treatments by funding the development of lead compounds through the early stage drug development process that could have significant impact on existing or future myeloma treatments. The MMRF will commit up to $6 million over the next two to three years in support of this program.
"Today, funding for preclinical research and early-stage clinical trials is extremely limited. As the world's largest private funder of myeloma research, we decided that we needed to invest directly in this research to ensure myeloma patients, who have a 32% five-year survival rate, have effective options in the future," said Kathy Giusti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MMRF, as well as a myeloma patient. "Through the innovative LEAD program, the MMRF is investing directly to biotechnology companies for this research that is not typically funded by NIH, private foundations, or venture capital firms."
The LEAD Program grants will be applied to the ongoing development of Semafore Pharmaceuticals' SF1126 and ProChon Biotech's PRO-001 compounds, including their testing in human clinical trials throughout 2007-2009.
"This funding will enable Semafore to advance the development of SF1126 as a promising new treatment for multiple myeloma in parallel with our solid tumor development program, instead of it taking a back seat," said Dr. Joseph Garlich, Semafore President and Chief Scientist. "This funding leverages all the preclinical work performed with SF1126 and comes at a perfect time for the company as we initiate Phase I solid-tumor focused clinical trials and now are in a position to take on this expansion of our target patient population."
SF1126 is a small molecule that selectively inhibits PI3K Class IA isoforms and other key members of the PI3K pathway such as DNA-PK and mTOR. Recent advances indicate that these targets play a critical role in the progression of cancer and many groups are searching for effective safe inhibitors of these targets. In preclinical studies, SF1126 has been shown to be a key regulator of many of the processes involved in tumor growth and dissemination. Preclinically, SF1126 inhibits angiogenesis, induces apoptosis, controls upstream and downstream signaling and produces synergistic anti-tumor effects in combination with chemotherapy and radiation. SF1126 has demonstrated promising activity in a variety of preclinical cancer models, including prostate, breast, ovarian, lung, leukemia, multiple myeloma, brain and other cancers.
"We are extremely grateful to the MMRF for providing us this research grant through its industry-leading LEAD program," said ProChon President and Chief Scientist Prof Avner Yayon. "These resources will play a significant role in our development of the new PRO-001 treatment for patients who have a subtype of multiple myeloma that has a very poor prognosis. We are looking forward to working with leading clinical centers at the forefront of treatment for multiple myeloma."
The association of fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) expression with t(4;14) multiple myeloma and the demonstration of the transforming potential of this receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) make it a particularly attractive target for the development of anti cancer drugs. ProChon's inhibitory anti-FGFR3 antibody, PRO-001, binds to FGFR3 expressed on transformed cells and inhibits receptor autophosphorylation and downstream signaling resulting in the death of the tumor cells. PRO-001 is a completely human, highly specific antibody and this grant will enable preclinical and clinical testing of the promising potential exhibited in cell culture.
About Multiple Myeloma
KRX-0401 is a novel, first-in-class, oral anticancer agent that modulates AKT and a number of other key signal transduction pathways, including the MAPK and JNK pathways.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable cancer of the plasma cell, with a five-year survival rate of only 32 percent--one of the lowest of all cancers. Approximately 50,000 people in the United States are living with multiple myeloma and an estimated 16,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Although the peak age of onset of multiple myeloma is 65 to 70 years of age, recent statistics suggest that incidence is increasing and at an earlier age.
About the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was established in 1998 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, a newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patient, with the unique mission of accelerating the search for a cure for multiple myeloma. Today, the MMRF is the largest non-profit foundation dedicated to the single mission of accelerating the search for a cure for multiple myeloma. As the world's number one funder of myeloma research, the MMRF has raised more than $70 million to fund more than 200 research grants at more than 70 research institutions around the globe. Currently, the MMRF is funding more than 30 new compounds and approaches - in pre-clinical testing and Phase I, II and III clinical trials - that show promise in treating patients at all stages of the disease. For more information about the MMRF, please visit www.themmrf.org.
Semafore Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is an Indianapolis-based drug discovery and development company focused on small molecule modulators of the PI3 Kinase (PI3K) and PTEN cell signaling pathway, one of the most promising pathways for multiple disorders, including the company's focus, cancer. Semafore is one of the first biopharmaceutical companies to focus on both PI3K and PTEN and has successfully discovered and is developing a portfolio of drug candidates. The company expects to file an IND for its lead clinical candidate, PI3K inhibitor SF1126, in December 2006. Semafore has also discovered the first drug-like small molecule PTEN modulators for cancer therapy, cell protection and therapeutic angiogenesis. For more information see the company's website at www.semaforepharma.com.
Established in 1997, ProChon Biotech is an Israeli biotech company devoted to the discovery, development and commercialization of novel therapeutic approaches for tissue regeneration and the treatment of genetic and acquired skeletal disorders. ProChon's therapeutic approach to cancer exploited through its sister company Fibron Ltd., stems from its proprietary know-how of one of the largest and most versatile growth factor systems in the human body, the Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGF) system. These key regulators of tissue growth regeneration and repair are critically involved in human pathology. For more information visit the company's website at www.prochon.com.
For more information about the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the LEAD Program, visit www.themmrf.org.
Vicki Vlastaris (MMRF)