Vanderbilt University has inked a new collaboration with drug giant Boehringer Ingelheim. The multi-year program expands on an already existing collaboration by focusing on developing small molecule compounds targeting the protein SOS (Son Of Sevenless). This molecule activates KRAS, a molecular switch that plays a central role in the onset of some of the deadliest cancers.
The deal combines pioneering research by Vanderbilt scientist Stephen W. Fesik with the strength of Boehringer Ingelheim in drug discovery and clinical development. The new collaboration adds to an existing project with Vanderbilt that achieved has already achieved two major milestones by identifying lead compounds that bind to KRAS with high affinities. These discoveries raise the prospect of developing novel cancer treatment options based on molecules that are able to block this critical cancer driver.
“We are very encouraged by the successful identification of inhibitors of KRAS in our alliance with Professor Fesik and his team at Vanderbilt University and look forward to expanding our collaboration,” said Clive R. Wood, PhD, senior corporate vice president of discovery research at Boehringer Ingelheim. “With new technologies and the scientific discoveries made by Professor Fesik’s laboratory, we believe the time is now right to step up research efforts to develop novel cancer treatments that work by attacking KRAS and associated signaling pathways.”
Mutations in the genes that encode KRAS are among the most powerful and frequent cancer drivers. They contribute to some of the most aggressive and deadly cancers, including up to 25% of lung, 35% to 45% of colorectal, and about 90% of pancreatic tumors. Despite its importance in tumor development – a discovery made 30 years ago – there are no useful treatments targeting KRAS. The development of the first molecules inhibiting KRAS activation promises has huge potential for the development of improved cancer therapies, which would offer physicians new and potentially more effective options to complement existing treatment, according to a drug company release.
Source: Boehringer Ingelheim