University College Cork Licenses Cancer Therapeutic Technology To Biotech Company Lee Oncology Ltd

Published: Apr 01, 2010

UCC licenses cancer therapeutic technology to biotech company University College Cork has signed an IP licensing agreement with Cork biotech firm, Lee Oncology Ltd that involves the commercial development of potential new cancer drugs developed by the research group of Professor Anita Maguire, Director of the Analytical & Biological Chemistry Research Facility at UCC.

The research project that gave rise to the current licensing opportunity began when a scientific team led by Lee Oncology’s Dr Finbarr Murphy created a unique series of genetically engineered human cell lines that recreate the “faulty wiring” found inside cancer cells. These engineered cells were then used as test-beds to search chemical libraries for molecules with anticancer activity. Professor Maguire’s team of pharmaceutical chemists then worked on certain of these molecules to improve their suitability for development as drugs. The resulting technology, as licensed to Lee Oncology, comprises multiple sets of compounds exhibiting targeted inhibition of signal pathways that mediate cancer cell survival, and which are selectively toxic to cancer cells.

In addition to funding from Enterprise Ireland, the company is seeking further funds to support development of the technology.

Commenting on the license, President of UCC, Michael Murphy welcomed this latest license as further evidence of UCC’s commitment to the innovation agenda and its strengths in developing technologies that were relevant to industry. President Murphy was also pleased to welcome the company into UCC’s new custom built incubation space at Western Gateway.

Dr John Harris, an international authority on kinase inhibitor chemistry and non-executive director responsible for medicinal chemistry at Lee Oncology, said: “We are delighted to gain access to these high-quality anti-cancer compound series, confident that we can develop them rapidly into promising drug candidates that physicians and their patients so urgently require”.

Lee Oncology’s CEO Colin Telfer spoke about the successful partnering with UCC: “This License is the start of what we hope will be a long-term commercial alliance with UCC and Professor Maguire and her team, and will play a vital part in our current negotiations with venture capital funders. We worked closely with the Office of Technology Transfer ( to create the spin out company and finalise the license of the technology and were delighted with the support we received from the Office’s staff."

About Lee Oncology

Lee Oncology seeks to become a leading international developer of new “rationally multitargeted” cancer medicines with superior efficacy and fewer side effects than today’s drugs. The company is developing its NKDDTM technology platform to discover new drugs that will selectively and powerfully undermine cancer cell survival mechanisms by inhibiting multiple signal pathway components in optimal combinations. The Company will drive these innovative products through the early stages of clinical testing before out-licensing to pharmaceutical partners.

Lee Oncology was founded in October 2008 as a spin out from UCC, by Drs Colin Telfer and Finbarr Murphy, experienced biotechnology management professionals who were previously CEO and Research Director, respectively, of Cork-based EiRx Therapeutics plc. Also on the founding management team are Dr John Harris, former founder and R&D Director of BioFocus plc, Professor John Crown, one of Ireland’s foremost cancer physicians, and Dr Joe O’Sullivan, formerly a senior executive at Bristol Myers Squibb.

In January 2009, Lee Oncology moved into offices in UCC’s new Western Gateway Incubation Centre. The Company is currently working on raising investment to roll out its NKDDTM technology platform and initiate its first drug development programmes. It intends to establish laboratory facilities in close collaboration with UCC’s BioIncubator Unit and the Analytical and Biological Chemistry Research Facility in the Cavanagh Pharmacy Building.

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