Case study

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Creating new antiviral and anti-cancer drugs

Drug specifically designed to bypass key cancer cell resistance pathways

Finding new drugs to treat some of the world’s most common forms of virus and cancers remains a challenge for scientists and pharmaceutical companies worldwide. The challenge remains to develop antivirals for the treatment of HIV, hepatitis B (HBV) and HCV, and many solid tumours.

Professor Christopher McGuigan and his team at Cardiff University began researching the design of novel chemically-protected phosphate prodrug groups, later to become known as ProTide technology. The distinctive feature of a ProTide is the ability to bypass the key resistance pathways and generate high levels of the active agent inside the target cells. The Cardiff team worked closely with the virology group of Professor Balzarini (Rega Institute of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) to investigate how the targeted attachment of ProTide motifs onto precursor nucleoside drugs enhanced drug entry into target cells and overcame drug resistance.

Significant worldwide commercial impact has been delivered by this research. Multinational pharmaceutical companies and smaller drug discovery firms in the USA and Europe are implementing the ProTide technology on candidate and existing therapeutics. The technology is transforming the prospects of antiviral and anti-cancer nucleoside agents. These users have invested in ProTide technology either through direct research partnerships with Cardiff University or by independently adapting the techniques described by the Cardiff team to their own proprietary agents.

“The new focus on the anti-cancer nucleosides is very exciting and has the potential to dramatically improve the treatment options for millions of patients diagnosed with cancer. Accelarin for terminal cancer and Sovaldi for HCV are two great examples” Professor Chris McGuigan, Cardiff University.