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The European Lead Factory is to screen a new anti-cancer therapeutic target from the Center for Applied Medical Research

This is the first Spanish project to be selected by the international consortium comprising 30 public and private partners and funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative

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From left to right: The laboratory researchers involved in discovering small molecules at CIMA: Julen Oyarzabal, Irene de Miguel Turullols, Elena Saez de Blas, Juan Antonio Sánchez and Obdulia Rabal. FOTO: Manuel Castells
03/05/16 09:00 Miriam Salcedo

The European Lead Factory will perform a high throughput screen for an emerging therapeutic target against cancer, as well as other unmet medical needs, that is investigated by the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) at the University of Navarra (Spain). This international consortium is a collaborative public-private association aiming to deliver innovative drug discovery starting points. It is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a partnership between the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

The European Lead Factory enables researchers at European academic bodies and SMEs to assess the potential of the 400,000 molecules available via its platform for innovative therapeutic targets. This is the first time the consortium has chosen to support a Spanish research project since it was set up in 2013.

According to Dr. Julen Oyarzabal, Director of Translational Science and the Molecular Therapy Program at CIMA, “our center has pioneered the development of molecules that are capable of reversibly inhibiting the action of methyltransferase, an enzyme regarded as an epigenetic target because it influences gene expression without affecting the genetic code”. Such compounds “have been shown to have preclinical efficacy in animal trials for the treatment of hematological and hepatic tumors, leading to three patent applications by CIMA to the European Patent Office”. The research into these compounds was carried out in conjunction with Drs. Felipe Prósper and Matías Ávila, Directors of the Oncohematology and Cellular Therapy Program, and the Hematology Program at CIMA, respectively.

The goal of this project, Dr. Oyarzabal explains, “is to identify new molecules that enable more effective treatments with fewer side effects”. At the same time, he says, “our study also allows us to assess their impact on other diseases of the central nervous system, cardiac complaints and metabolic illnesses”.

The European Lead Factory will carry out the high throughput screen and the hit compound selection in its laboratories in collaboration with researchers at the small molecules discovery platform, part of the Molecular Therapy Program at CIMA. The intellectual property model of the European Lead Factory will allow CIMA to file patents on the identified molecules for future development of a possible new drug.