Public Release: 

MD Anderson, Cayman Chemical, and Fannin Innovation Studio form therapeutics company

ACF Pharmaceuticals to explore the potential of novel, small molecule anti-cancer agents

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Cayman Chemical and Fannin Innovation Studio have formed ACF Pharmaceuticals, LLC. The pre-clinical therapeutics company is dedicated to discovering and developing novel small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of a variety of inflammation-induced cancers, including melanoma and colon and pancreatic cancer.

Chronic inflammation has long been associated with cancer development and the cyclooxygenase pathway (COX) involved in promoting it. The COX enzymes are popular therapeutic targets; however, COX inhibitors have a variety of unwanted side effects that limit their use. ACF is working to develop two different approaches that will target this inflammatory pathway to block cancer progression and enhance the anti-tumor immune response.

Under the terms of a parallel joint development agreement, Cayman's drug discovery program will focus on developing novel agents including the design, optimization, synthesis and initial screening for therapeutic applications in cancer, fibrosis, inflammation and pain. MD Anderson will use existing and newly developed models to evaluate candidate molecules, working with Cayman and Fannin to identify and advance the lead development. Fannin, a Houston-based, early-stage life science commercialization firm, is providing early-stage funding and will manage ACF, providing intellectual property strategy, capitalization and grant strategy, and business development.

"While we have been very successful at establishing alliance with large pharmaceutical companies, this is not the only modality by which we can make a positive impact in the lives of patients," said Ferran Prat, Ph.D., J.D., vice president for strategic industry ventures at MD Anderson. "In this arrangement, we are combining three complementary skills to build something bigger than the sum of its parts, organized in a lean and efficient fashion."

"Cayman has a long history of success supporting the development of therapeutics such as Celecoxib via our research biochemicals. With ACF, we will for the first time join as full partners with a talented team of MD Anderson biologists and physicians to apply our deep understanding of the COX enzymes to the treatment and prevention of cancer," said Kirk Maxey, M.D., president and CEO at Cayman Chemical.

"More targeted ways to modulate the COX pathway promise a substantial benefit to patients and represents a major market opportunity," said Atul Varadhachary, M.D., Ph.D., managing partner at Fannin. "This partnership reflects both increasing recognition of both the commercial value of innovation being created in Houston and the need for creative ways to advance early stage innovation."

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