EiRx's proprietary siRNA delivery technology is used for the functional validation of oncology drug targets. In target validation it is advantageous to be able to use a single, simple methodology that is effective across a wide range of cancer cell types.
Under the terms of the three-month agreement, Merck intend to evaluate EiRx's siRNA technology, assessing its capabilities as a platform for validating drug targets, particularly in the area of oncology. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Ian Hayes, chief executive officer of EiRx Therapeutics told DrugResearcher.com: "We have developed what we believe to be a simple, easy-to-use method of siRNA delivery that works well across a range of cancer cell types."
"While it depends on the outcome of the research, we estimate that our method of delivery can achieve better results in one tenth of the time as compared to antisense technology. The technique's main advantage is not its quickness but its effectiveness and versatility."
It is estimated that an additional 5,000-10,000 new potential drug targets for various diseases will emerge as a result of the sequencing of the human genome. Given the expense of drug development (approx. $800 million (€622 million)) to bring a therapeutic to market), functional drug target validation is an important step in the drug discovery pipeline and requires an efficient and high-throughput evaluation system.
In the past, time consuming genetic approaches such as gene disruption by homologous recombination and forward genetic mutagenesis strategies were used. Nucleic acid-based approaches that act to silence gene expression, in particular antisense technology seemed to provide a sequence specific, broadly applicable, time and cost effective alternatives. While antisense has made some impact on both target validation and therapeutics, there are several major technical issues that have prevented its widespread application.
Hayes said: "The antisense technology is a very 'hit and miss' technique making it relatively inaccurate and inefficient."
"Added to the technique's imprecise method of delivery, EiRx has looked into alternative ways to silence gene expression."
SiRNA has the potential to overcome many of the apparent shortcomings of antisense technology. Efficiency of transfection and adaptability of the method constitute the key criteria for the development of a successful high throughput siRNA delivery system to enable cancer target validation.
EiRx scientists have found this proprietary siRNA delivery technology to be highly effective for the functional validation of oncology drug targets, demonstrating their role in apoptosis-modulation and drug resistance in cancer cells.
This latest deal with Merck follows Dec 2004's deal with Sareum Holdings, the structure-based drug discovery and services business. The deal aims to discover and develop novel cancer therapies.