Phylogica lab success may have far reaching consequences

ASX listed biotech Phylogica, has achieved a key medical milestone on its journey towards developing a biological organism that is capable of carrying or “transporting” cancer fighting and other drugs directly inside the nucleus of a diseased cell.

The ASX-listed company said in a market update recently that it had successfully delivered a new “proof of concept cargo” known as “Cre” into kidney cells in the laboratory, potentially paving the way for animal based clinical trials.

Cre is an enzyme routinely used in biological research and Phylogica say they have now managed to deliver it as a “cargo” directly inside cells using the company’s proprietary “FPP” biological transportation technology.

FPP stands for “Functional Penetrating Peptides” which have been developed by Phylogica to breach cell walls whilst carrying large molecules such as intracellular drug cargos, delivering their payload directly inside a diseased cell.

According to Phylogica, the company’s peptides are unique in so much as they provide internal cell access for drugs that may have otherwise been too large to breach a cell wall.

In the most recent laboratory trials, Phylogica says it managed to track exactly where the Cre ended up in the kidney cell structure given Cre’s ability to change the colour of a cell that it interacts with.

Dr Robert Hayes Phylogica’s Chief Scientific Officer said, “Through the Cre system, we will be able to determine where our FPPs, and the cargoes attached to them, end up in the body. The Cre system will significantly reduce testing time, cutting in half the current testing regime to determine where in the body a FPP is taking the biologic cargo. This work also shows that the FPP1746-Cre gets into the nucleus of the cell.  This data is important to companies that are working in the highly competitive area of gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR/Cas9.”  

Perth-based Phylogica is striving to develop a unique platform that, if successful, could save the lives of tens of millions of cancer sufferers and those suffering from other illnesses. The company is looking to target diseased cells by delivering its cargo of drugs directly inside those cells, thereby avoiding mass contamination of other healthy cells along the way.

The company will soon move from the test tube phase to live testing on animals to see if it can replicate its recent laboratory success.

Phylogica CEO Stephanie Unwin added, “Successful delivery of a Cre cargo is a great result for our company and does three important things. First, it demonstrates that we can deliver an enzyme into kidney cells in vitro. Secondly, it is a significant step achieved for our team ahead of using the live animal system for testing the delivery of drugs into the body and gives potential Pharma customers the confidence that Phylogica can deliver their drugs in a targeted way. Thirdly, our data once again shows clear outperformance of FPPs over the current delivery standard TAT, with over 50% more uptake into cells using our technology.”

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for Phylogica is potentially massive.

The company’s strategy to focus on a product that can deliver any number of already established drugs directly inside a diseased cell where they will be more effective, creates a myriad of lucrative global partnership opportunities with big pharma companies for Phylogica.

The company’s latest triumph comes just a month after its FPP technology managed to stimulate the immune system in mice that had been inoculated with melanoma cells. Phylogica’s technology was able to assist in attacking and even eliminating tumours that were created in those mice.

Ultimately Phylogica’s success will be linked to the number of big pharma bed fellows it can attract and it already counts a number of massive pharmaceutical players in its list of collaborators.

These include Roche, Medimmune, Pfizer, Janssen and Genentech to name just a few.

The company also points to a number of prior collaboration successes to show that it may be onto something with its FPP delivery technology that has already shown success in the inhibition of breast cancer tumour growth and in tackling Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and cancerous melanoma’s amongst other things.

With the pharmaceutical industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Phylogica may only need to sidle up to a couple of the big players for its $60m market cap to be materially impacted.

Typically big pharma’s will take out smaller players at or during the animal testing phase, particularly if positive results are starting to shine through.

Phylogica’s commercial journey this year may well be a transformational one for its shareholders as it starts to focus more on commercialisation.

With over $100m already ploughed into its technology platforms, this is one biotech that is now starting to reach maturity.

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