East-West academic-industry research collaboration to identify lung cancer biomarkers

Two Japanese institutions, a Korean biotechnology start-up, and a Canadian biotech company have entered into a research collaboration to identify biomarkers unique to lung cancer cells suitable for targeted therapeutics.

As of October 13, 2020, Japan’s largest comprehensive research organization, RIKEN; Keio University of Japan; iProgen Biotech Inc. of Canada, and iPrime Therapeutics Co., Ltd of Korea agreed to the joint research program. 

According to World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer occurred in 2.1 million people and resulted in 1.8 million deaths in 2018, making it the most common cause of cancer-related death in men and the second most common cause (after breast cancer) in women.  85% of lung cancer cases are due to long-term tobacco smoking, with the majority of lung cancer (>80%) being Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).  According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for NSCLC is 24%.  

Asides from surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, currently approved targeted drugs address the disease by inhibiting new blood vessel growth around tumors or by encouraging the body's immune system to attack the cancer.  There is an urgent need for therapies that can treat lung cancer more effectively.  The goal of this four-party, multidisciplinary project is to use new technologies, such as single cell genomic analysis and whole genome RNA sequencing, to find new biomarkers unique to lung cancer.

The results of the research will be used to develop new antibodies that can target cancer cells.

iProgen Biotech Inc. is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada.  iProgen focuses on utilizing antibody drug delivery technologies to address unmet medical needs.   iProgen aims to improve the efficacy and safety of a new class of drug, antibody drug conjugates, by improving their delivery and internalization at targeted cancer cells.  iProgen is engaged in numerous research collaborations seeking therapeutic opportunities based on its platform delivery technology.   

RIKEN is the largest and most comprehensive natural sciences research institute in Japan. It was founded in 1917 and has more than 3,000 scientists in seven campuses across Japan. The Yokohama campus is a hub for medical, life and environmental sciences research activities that adapt multidisciplinary approaches. The principal investigator representing RIKEN for this project is Erik Arner, PhD. whose focus is on analyzing gene regulation for clinical and medical applications.

Keio University is a preeminent Japanese private university, famous for its high quality research and education. The oldest institute of modern higher education in Japan, Keio University Hospital is one of the largest and best-known teaching hospitals in Japan, while Keio University School of Medicine is focusing on translational research and combining basic research with clinical medicine. The principal investigator representing Keio University in this collaboration is Ahmed E. Hegab, MD, PhD, an accomplished lung researcher who has published extensively in the field of lung cancer, stem cells, and lung regeneration.

iPrime Therapeutics Co., Ltd. is a biotechnology company based in Seoul, South Korea, focused on the identification and translation of niche market medical opportunities.  In an era of block buster drugs, most drug development focuses on drug candidates with multi-billion-dollar market potential, but iPrime aims to address niche targets and indications with high potentials of expanding to large therapeutic markets.

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