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By Biocat

Grifols has joined the stockholders (40%) of the Catalan biotechnology company VCN Biosciences, founded in 2009 by three researchers from the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and devoted to researching and developing new therapeutic approaches to tumors that currently have no effective treatment. More specifically, VCN Biosciences focuses on developing new agents to treat cancer based on oncolytic adenoviruses, which are highly selective and have high anti-tumor potential. In 2010, the company won the BioEmprenedorXXI Award driven by "la Caixa", Barcelona Activa, Biocat, Genoma España and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce.

Their most advanced project focuses on treating pancreatic cancer. Grifols’ participation in VCN Biosciences will allow them to continue developing this new therapeutic approach, which is currently in the preclinical phase and expected to move into the clinical phase in 2013. Nevertheless, the drug was granted orphan drug status from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2011.

This operation was carried out through Gri-Cel, SA, the Grifols subsidiary that promotes the group’s participation in R&D companies and projects in fields of medicine other than their own, such as advanced therapies. Grifols also holds stock in Nanotherapix (51%) and Araclon Biotech (51%).

In the future, VCN Biosciences will move their offices, currently located in the Biopol complex in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, to the Grifols corporate facilities in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Barcelona).

Grifols was guided through the process by the Osborne Clarke law firm and VCN Biosciences, by Rousaud Costas Durán.

Viral therapy

VCN Biosciences uses the oncolytic adenovirus technology platform to generate viral therapy candidates. Viral therapy is a therapeutic approach for treating cancer that is based on the use of viruses that can replicate and selectively destroy tumor cells (oncolytic viruses). This new type of cancer-fighting agent uses a unique action mechanism when compared to anti-tumor drugs, as they are able to self-amplify and propagate the oncolytic effect.

VCN Biosciences currently holds exclusive rights to two patent licenses for separate technologies developed by the ICO Viral Therapy Group. One of them, hyaluronidase, is part of their most advanced clinical candidate: VCN-01, to treat pancreatic cancer.

VCN-01 is an adenovirus that replicates selectively in tumor cells and expresses the human hyaluronidase enzyme, which acts by breaking down hyaluronic acid, a structural component of the tumor’s extracellular matrix. Various studies have shown that hyaluronic acid creates a dense matrix that increases interstitial pressure in the tissue, preventing the flow, and thus penetration, of drugs into tumor cells. Some cancers, like pancreatic cancer, have a high concentration of hyaluronic acid, which correlates with their invasive and chemo-resistant characteristics. Breaking down this matrix helps the virus spread through the tumor mass and chemotherapy to penetrate it.

More information is available on the Grifols and VCN Biosciences websites.

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