Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Biggest Of Pharmas

A group of Israeli scientists at a biotech startup say they are ready to have a cure for cancer by 2020.

A small team of Israeli scientists think they might have found the first complete cure for cancer.

“We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer
,” said Dan Aridor, of a new treatment being developed by his company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator in the Weizmann Science Park. AEBi developed the SoAP platform, which provides functional leads to very difficult targets.

“Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,” Aridor said. “Our solution will be both generic and personal.”

It sounds fantastical, especially considering that an estimated 18.1 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year, according to reports by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Further, every sixth death in the world is due to cancer, making it the second leading cause of death (second only to cardiovascular disease).

Aridor, chairman of the board of AEBi and CEO Dr. Ilan Morad, say their treatment, which they call MuTaTo (multi-target toxin) is essentially on the scale of a cancer antibiotic – a disruption technology of the highest order.

The potentially game-changing anti-cancer drug is based on SoAP technology, which belongs to the phage display group of technologies. It involves the introduction of DNA coding for a protein, such as an antibody, into a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria. That protein is then displayed on the surface of the phage. Researchers can use these protein-displaying phages to screen for interactions with other proteins, DNA sequences and small molecules.

In 2018, a team of scientists won the Nobel Prize for their work on phage display in the directed evolution of new proteins – in particular, for the production of antibody therapeutics.

AEBi is doing something similar but with peptides, compounds of two or more amino acids linked in a chain. According to Morad, peptides have several advantages over antibodies, including that they are smaller, cheaper, and easier to produce and regulate.

When the company first started, Morad said, “We were doing what everyone else was doing, trying to discover individual novel peptides for specific cancers.” But shortly thereafter, Morad and his colleague, Dr. Hanan Itzhaki, decided they wanted to do something bigger.

To get started, Morad said they had to identify why other cancer-killing drugs and treatments don’t work or eventually fail. Then, they found a way to counter that effect.

Search and destroy phages that eat cancer cells, the stuff of medical sci-fi and Michael Crighton thrillers, but if this stuff is true, if these scientists have cracked the problem, they go down in history along with Salk, Curie, Crick (not so much Watson these days), Pasteur, Darwin, the big ones.  It's a big if, of course, the major concern.

My second concern is how available is this, because cancer kills one in six, and charging a million bucks for a treatment regimen, well, if this were an American company, you can bet that you wouldn't be able to afford it.  This kind of becomes a nuclear blast in the Big Pharma industry.  Not quite curing cancer is extraordinarily lucrative.  Actually curing it without chemo or radiation is a money loser, and the big pharma companies damn well know it.

Again, if this pans out, it's a world-changer.  The change may not be better for everyone.

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