Two Early-stage Funds Invest in Novel Anticancer Technology
San Diego, CA – Jun 11, 2001
California technology investment company RCT BioVentures West and IngleWood Ventures, a San Diego venture fund, are investing jointly in Cyternex Inc., a privately held biotechnology company developing novel gene-targeting anticancer agents.
Based in San Diego, Cyternex is investigating the role of dynamic three-dimensional DNA structures in regulating cancer genes and other aspects of tumor biology. The company is developing anticancer drug candidates that target these unique structures and specific cancer genes. This new class of anticancer agents may provide a more effective and less toxic alternative to current chemotherapies.
Cyternex’s lead series of compounds aim to regulate expression of c-myc, a well-known cancer gene. Over-expression of this gene is seen in 60 percent of all cancers, including prostate, breast, melanoma, colorectal, pancreatic, Burkitt’s and non-Burkitt’s lymphoma, and myeloid leukemia. These agents appear to block tumor growth by stabilizing four-dimensional “knots” in the cancer DNA, called G-quadruplexes, which prevent expression of c-myc. The compounds also fold telomeres at the end of chromosomes into stabilized G-quadruplexes. This action reverses the unlimited lifespan of cancer cells by disrupting the ability of the enzyme, telomerase, to maintain the chromosome end at a consistent length. Eighty-five to 90 percent of all tumors express telomerase.
Cyternex founder and scientific director, Laurence Hurley, Ph.D., D.Sc, reported on the company’s work at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual meeting in March.
“G-quadruplex stabilization is a unique anticancer target,” said Fred G. Volinsky, M.D., president of RCT BioVentures West and Cyternex board member. “No clinical anticancer drugs or candidates in clinical trials are known to interact with these structures. I am also very excited about Dan Von Hoff’s involvement since he is one of the country’s leading oncologists.”
“We are pleased to support world-class scientific and clinical talent at Cyternex and welcome the company to San Diego,” said Daniel C. Wood, IngleWood Ventures general partner and Cyternex board member.
Hurley discovered and initially developed the Cyternex technologies while at the University of Texas at Austin. He now holds the Howard J. Schaeffer Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Arizona. Other Cyternex managers are Thomas J. Farrell, president and chief executive officer, and Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., chair of the clinical advisory board. Von Hoff is the director of the Arizona Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.
Cyternex intends to use the funding to build infrastructure and recruit key scientific personnel to find optimal lead clinical candidates. The company’s goal is to begin clinical trials in the next two to three years.
About Research Corporation Technologies
Research Corporation Technologies in Tucson, Ariz., formed RCT BioVentures West to invest in and support early development of potentially high-value biomedical discoveries from research institutions and entrepreneurs in California.
About IngleWood Ventures
IngleWood Ventures invests in a diversified portfolio of early-stage healthcare companies, primarily in Southern California. Areas of focus include drug discovery/tools, medical devices and diagnostics, and healthcare information technology.
Fred G. Volinsky, RCT BioVentures West, (650) 289-9025
Daniel C. Wood, IngleWood Ventures, (858) 792-3579
Thomas J. Farrell, Cyternex, (858) 523-9498