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Press Releases

Novonco Teams with City of Hope to Build a Better Cancer Drug

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dr. Jack Kavanaugh, Chairman of Novonco Pharmaceuticals, Inc., announced today that Novonco has licensed the exclusive rights to City of Hope’s novel anti-cancer agent COH29, a potential breakthrough agent in the fight against hard-to-treat cancers, including ovarian cancer.

“We at Novonco are excited to work with City of Hope on COH29, which holds so much promise for the treatment of ovarian and other hard-to-treat cancers”

The small molecule COH29 inhibits the production of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), an enzyme that is central to production of many types of cancer cells. Current clinically-established RNR inhibitors — such as hydroxyurea and gemcitabine — have drawbacks, including a short half-life and drug resistance. But COH29 represents a new class of RNR inhibitors, with unique targeted-action mechanisms that limit damage to non-cancer cells, thus limiting side effects. Preclinical trials suggest it can overcome hydroxyurea and gemcitabine resistance in cancer cells and may serve as a first- or second-line treatment in relevant cancers. This novel therapeutic agent has been in development at City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute.

In preclinical studies, COH29 has been shown to reduce tumor growth in human cancers, including leukemia and ovarian cancer — diseases that are hard to treat, and it has also shown promise against breast cancer cells. “One of the real potentials of COH29,” says Dr. David Horne, co-chairman of Novonco’s Medical Advisory Board, “is its potent antitumor activity against BRCA1-deficient ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian cancer (OC) is the most lethal — and the second most-common — gynecologic cancer in the United States, with over 20,000 new cases and 14,000 deaths expected yearly. Most of the cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, with a corresponding 5-year survival rate of only 27 percent. Today, primary treatment of OC typically consists of surgery followed by first-line chemotherapy with a platinum/taxol combination. First-in-human Phase I clinical trials of COH29 are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015 at City of Hope.

“We at Novonco are excited to work with City of Hope on COH29, which holds so much promise for the treatment of ovarian and other hard-to-treat cancers,” says Dr. Kavanaugh. The company is working on two other cancer therapeutic platforms, based on individual licensing arrangements with City of Hope and the University of California Irvine.

In 2009, in conjunction with City of Hope, Dr. Kavanaugh founded ZetaRx Therapeutics. Dr. Kavanaugh was also the Chairman and CEO of ZetaRx, which became the core of Juno Therapeutics. Juno was the largest biotech IPO of 2014 and attained a market cap of approximately $6 billion.

Novonco Therapeutics Launches

UCI-crpAugust 19, 2014

LOS ANGELES (PR Newswire): Dr. Jack Kavanaugh DDS, MD, MBA, founder and former Chairman/CEO of ZetaRx and a physician who has dedicated his career to accelerating disruptive medical technology development, is launching a cancer therapeutic company, Novonco Therapeutics, Inc., in partnership with Dr. David Horne from The City of Hope, Dr. Larry Overman from The University of California, Irvine, and The City of Hope.

Novonco, of which Dr. Kavanaugh is Chairman, builds on his career combining technologies from several globally recognized leading institutions to drive cancer research. In 2008, Dr. Kavanaugh in partnership with The City of Hope and others founded ZetaRX to make generally available a non-surgical, non-chemo and non-radiation treatment for cancer. Through exclusive licensing agreements, utilizing coordinated and assembled technologies from several different leading institutions, Dr. Kavanaugh turned this idea into a reality applying T-cell CAR technology to cancer therapeutics. Before he founded and became Chairman/CEO of ZetaRx, there was little interest in this approach but now T-cell technology, which takes advantage of the cell responsible for destroying potential cancer, has been hailed by many researchers as the most exciting development in cancer therapeutics. The latest report on ZetaRX’s work demonstrates 88% of the terminal patients were in complete remission through T-cell CAR technology.

“The collaboration between Novonoco Therapeutics, and scientists from the City of Hope and the University of California, Irvine hold exciting promise for bringing a new generation of specifically targeted cancer therapeutics to patients.”

Zeta RX was acquired in October 2013 by Juno Therapeutics, which was formed and launched on Zeta RX’s technology as its core. Juno is continuing the work that Dr. Kavanaugh started and recently secured the largest series A raise in biotech history ($145 million) and has raised approximately $300 million in total.

Juno’s (formerly ZetaRx) therapy is specific to each patient.  A specific subset of T-cells is isolated from a patient’s blood, genetically altered, and a receptor is added (called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR), that specifically recognizes the marker on the cancer cells. Cells are then grown in culture, and a few weeks later injected into the patient. The cells find the cancer cells where they are in the body and ultimately destroy them.

According to Dr. Jack Kavanaugh, “Novonco is thrilled about its collaboration with scientists from the City of Hope and the University of California, Irvine.  The therapy utilizes two different approaches to cancer therapeutics.  One, called epigenetics interferes with the genetic code that creates a specific cancer cell.  The other, called kinase inhibitors, interferes with enzymes that lead to the creation of a specific cancer cell.  Novonco believes each therapy will be effective in cancer therapeutics as well as providing an opportunity for potentiation with a combined therapy.  Juno and Novonco’s approaches have the similarity of having the potential of avoiding radiation and the ravages of chemotherapeutic approaches of today.  Novonco’s primary targets will include Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Ovarian Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer.”

Dr. Larry Overman, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine said, “The small-molecule drugs being developed are the result of extensive basic research to improve the selectivity and safety of the original natural product lead molecules. The collaboration between Novonoco Therapeutics, and scientists from the City of Hope and the University of California, Irvine hold exciting promise for bringing a new generation of specifically targeted cancer therapeutics to patients.”

Dr. David Horne, Deputy Director of Research, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center added “We have developed potent, molecularly targeted small molecule drugs that hold much promise for treating patients with refractory disease for which there is no standard treatment. These novel drugs are based on natural products and the result of much research into the medicinal chemistry and cancer biology of both solid and hematological malignant tumors. Using precision medicine, our goal is to apply these new treatments to patients that will receive maximum benefit with the goal of curing metastatic disease.”