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Ferrer, a pharmaceutical corporation present in more than 95 countries, has set up a consortium with the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and bioinformatics firm Mind the Byte to promote the development of new therapeutic models for cancer metastasis.

The project, which begins this September, will be based on research conducted by Dr. Xavier Trepat, ICREA professor at IBEC, on cadherin interactions and their role in cells that cause metastasis. Cadherins are a family of cell-adhesion molecules. Trepat’s work has shown that some of them, like 'I-cadherin' and 'P-cadherin', are present in the most aggressive forms of breast cancer and help spread cancerous cells.

Both Dr. Andrés G. Fernández, director of Ferrer Advanced Biotherapeutics, and Dr. Alfons Nonell-Canals, CEO of Mind the Byte, agree that this is a new case of technology transfer between a public research center and two private companies in Catalonia, each contributing its knowledge and expertise. In fact, the consortium is a result of Ferrer's new R&D strategy, which focuses on co-developing innovative drugs with biotech companies instead of having internal research teams, to which the company is devoting nearly 20% of its total R&D budget.

In the first phase of the project, Mind the Byte –a company specializing in computer-aided drug design– will create computational models of the interactions between cadherins and design molecules that could possibly block this interaction using their SaaS platform, a pioneer in the sector. Computational design technology will allow them to cut costs and time: completing the process in just six months, while with traditional technology it would take much longer.

Afterwards, Trepat's group will test the molecules and Ferrer will contribute its know-how in chemistry, pharmacology and drug development, as well as playing a key role as an industrial partner (if necessary) in the later stages. Although the three firms began this relationship as a consortium, the project could lead to the creation of a new company if preliminary trials demonstrate its feasibility. The consortium declined to specify the amount invested.

Dr. Trepat is one of the few scientists to have received three grants from the European Research Council (ERC) and was also awarded the Banco Sabadell Foundation Award for Biomedical Research in 2015 for his research with cadherins and tumor metastasis. 

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