The Cambridge life science community has created history by spawning the cluster’s and the UK’s second blockbuster drug – and the scientist behind the latest success believes there is much more to come.
Professor Steve Jackson hailed AstraZeneca’s success with the $1 billion blockbuster Lynparza in the ovarian cancer field and further clinical trials success that could lead to a fresh US sales bonanza.
He adds that this success could now be replicated to tackle breast cancers and even pancreatic cancer.
Taking a more panoramic and longer term view, Prof Jackson says the Cambridge BioMedTech cluster has the capability to produce more world-leading solutions to a broad variety of diseases ahead of larger, richer and more celebrated global healthcare centres.
As Business Weekly has previously reported, AstraZeneca is predicting $2 billion a year sales for Lynparza – technology which arose from discoveries made by Professor Jackson’s Cancer Research UK-funded team in Cambridge.
The roots of the technology can be dated back almost two decades to Jackson’s highly productive lab at Cambridge University. And either through a neat mix of symmetry and serendipity or some astonishing crystal gazing both can be writ large in the CV of AstraZeneca, now entrenched in Cambridge.
AstraZeneca paid £702 million for Cambridge Antibody Technology which had developed adalimumab – the first fully human monoclonal antibody drug approved by the FDA – in 2006. Through Abbott Laboratories adalimumab morphed into HUMIRA and become the UK’s first blockbuster in that year. The CAT business was integrated into MedImmune which continues to thrive in Cambridge and the US as AZ’s biologics R & D hothouse.
Olaparib (now marketed as Lynparza) was developed by Cambridge-based pharmaceutical startup KuDOS, which Prof. Jackson founded, and AstraZeneca acquired the technology when it bought KuDOS, also in 2006.
Besides the human benefit, on a commercial basis AZ will be rubbing its hands if Lynparza is anywhere near as successful as HUMIRA turned out to be: In the last year for which ratified figures are available Humira had $4.3 billion of sales in the US and $9.3bn worldwide.
Prof Jackson told Business Weekly: “Lynparza is already a huge commercial success for AstraZeneca with $1bn sales for ovarian cancer. All being well, lynparza should be available to treat breast cancers within a year or so. Now I understand AZ is investigating its use to treat pancreatic cancer; it is all very exciting.
“Cambridge’s BioMedTech community is punching way above its weight in global terms and the trajectory of this momentum is still very much on an upwards arc.
“When I look back at the biotech sector here 10 years ago and compare it to what is being achieved currently it represents staggering progress. More pertinently the stage is now set for many, many more such successful outcomes from the Cambridge cluster in years to come.
“Developing drugs to inhibit DNA repair enzymes and using these drugs to selectively kill certain cancer cells was a concept that led me to set up KuDOS, around 18 years ago.
“It is wonderful to see that the concept and its applicability in improving cancer patients’ lives is now coming-of-age through the success of the KuDOS/AstraZeneca drug Lynparza (olaparib).
“Lynparza, which inhibits the DNA repair enzyme PARP, became a registered medicine for some ovarian cancers in late 2014 and in many cases it is enhancing and extending patients’ lives.
“The recent announcement from AstraZeneca on results from the OlympiAD Phase III clinical trial will hopefully pave the way for Lynparza also becoming prescribed for certain patients whose breast cancers possess BRCA1/2 mutations.
“I am personally extremely optimistic about the prospects for PARP inhibitors, as well as other DNA repair inhibitors, in treating various cancers. I look forward, with with much anticipation and excitement, to learning about further clinical developments.”
AstraZeneca is now firmly headquartered in Cambridge and the sharp-eyed Woodford Investment Management has added to its stake in the business and is predicting strong future growth.
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