Two men in lab coats working together in a lab.

Edmonton company headed by U of A cancer researcher secures $109M partnership to create new inflammatory disease therapies

Published On
December 6, 2019
John Lewis (left), CEO of Entos Pharmaceuticals and an experimental oncologist at the U of A, says the company’s $109-million partnership with a biotechnology firm will further development of new therapies for both inflammatory disease and metastatic cancer. (Photo: Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry)

Work will accelerate other University of Alberta research to create new drugs to block the spread of cancer.

An Edmonton company headed by a University of Alberta cancer researcher is developing new therapies to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases thanks to a $109-million research and collaboration agreement with a biopharmaceutical company. 

Entos Pharmaceuticals will use targets provided by the biopharmaceutical company, which is anonymous due to competitive reasons in the marketplace, to develop new therapeutic compounds using the company’s Fusogenix drug-delivery platform. 

“This is particularly exciting for us as it provides additional validation for our drug delivery platform and will help accelerate our own exciting work to cure metastatic cancers,” said John Lewis, CEO of Entos and a professor of oncology at the U of A.

The biopharmaceutical partner has the option to exclusively licence any new drug candidates developed under the agreement with Entos. Entos and its partner hope to rapidly move new drug candidates through to clinical trials.

Lewis has big plans for the drug delivery technology, which was first discovered and developed at Dalhousie University in Halifax. 

Entos, based at the Merck Invention Accelerator located in TEC Edmonton’s TEC Centre Labs, was formed in 2016 to use the technology in the development of new gene-targeted therapies for treating the most deadly aspect of cancer—metastasis, its spread to distant organs. 

Based on work in Lewis’s laboratory at the U of A, the team has been screening for genes involved in metastasis and then using Fusogenix drug delivery technology to create new genetic medicines to completely block the process. 

“We’ll first be focusing our efforts on metastatic cancers that are quite deadly, such as pancreatic cancer or glioblastoma,” said Lewis, who is also the Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the U of A and a member of the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta

Entos is aiming to launch a clinical trial at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute in 2020, recruiting patients living with prostate, lung, colorectal or pancreatic cancer. Gene products used in the clinical trial will be manufactured at the U of A’s Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing facility, ensuring they meet quality assurance standards and international regulatory requirements.

As Entos continues to create industry partnerships, Lewis says the goal is to make Edmonton a nexus for both research and development, and the manufacturing of gene-based therapies. With the new agreement, he sees a bright future ahead for the company in Alberta’s capital city.

“Edmonton is an ideal backdrop to address these key unmet clinical needs. We’re looking forward to bringing made-in-Alberta therapies to the clinic for the benefit of patients,” said Lewis.

“Entos has been flying just a bit under the radar, but I don’t think we can do that anymore.”