Today EMBL scientists, EMBL's commercial affiliate, EMBL Enterprise Management Technology Transfer GmbH (EMBLEM) and EMBL's venture vehicle, EMBL Ventures GmbH, announce the foundation of Elara Pharmaceuticals GmbH, a start-up company that will translate basic research findings into new anti-cancer drugs. Elara is a spin-out company dedicated to drug development and will follow-up on promising small molecule leads that have shown powerful anti-cancer actions in screening experiments. Elara receives seed funding from EMBL Ventures and has been granted exclusive license rights to selected discoveries made at EMBL.
"Elara draws on the skills and know-how of some of Europe's leading molecular biologists and the cutting-edge technology of EMBL's Chemical Biology Core Facility", says George Reid, researcher at EMBL and CEO of Elara. "The EMBL core facility, led by Joe Lewis, who is also a co-founder of ELARA, has tested thousands of small molecules in screens developed during our basic research activities, and identified several series with anti-cancer action. Elara will now take the most promising of these compounds, further develop them and then evaluate their activity in animal models of various types of tumours, such as lung and breast cancer. Through creating a direct flow of information from basic research, preclinical development and application studies, we will greatly speed up the process of drug development."
Elara will follow-up on promising leads of molecules that block the signaling protein Aurora Kinase A, which is strongly over-expressed in cancer cells, and on inhibitors that affect estrogen receptor signaling, a process essential in the development of breast cancer. EMBO Executive Director, EMBL Senior Scientist and Elara co-founder Frank Gannon heads the world-leading research group studying these receptors. Five lead series of bio-active molecules with different modes of action and diverse chemical structures have already been identified from the two cancer-related signaling pathways.
"Traditionally, there is a significant gap between basic research and drug development", says Christof Antz, Managing Director of EMBL Ventures. "It often takes years to get from promising findings to a therapeutic approach. With Elara we aim to bridge this gap and create a direct pipeline from the Laboratory by way of animal testing to clinical development."