BTB Case Study: Shining a light on collaboration to accelerate anti-cancer drug discovery

MycRx Team photo L-R: Dr Richard Foitzik (Director of Chemistry), Dr Sangkyu Kim (Head of Biology), Dr Alison Thistlethwaite (Operations Manager), Dr Christopher Burns (Senior Vice President of Research and Development).Photo Credit: Julian Dolman

Melbourne-based MycRx is an early-stage drug development company advancing first-in-class small molecule inhibitors of the Myc oncoprotein to treat oncology indications such as lung cancer. 

The development of novel, small molecule therapeutics is enabling significant potential advances in cancer treatment.

MycRx was awarded $900,000 matched funding in Round 1 of MTPConnect's Biomedical Translation Bridge (BTB) program and was supported by BTB venture partner BioCurate. At the end of June 2021, MycRx was the first of the cohort to complete its BTB program.

The expression of the protein Myc, a protein that causes cancerous cells from a wide range of organs and tissues to divide uncontrollably, is deregulated in more than half of all human cancers. 

As such, inhibition of Myc is deemed to be of considerable merit in cancer drug discovery and a small molecule Myc inhibitor could have extensive utility in cancer treatment. 

The potential drug leads developed by MycRx directly target Myc. If successful, MycRx's resulting pharmaceutical products could have broad application for the treatment of a significant number of cancers, including lung cancer.

The BTB funding has enabled collaboration between MycRx and Australian local and interstate research institutes and organisations - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, CSIRO, the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (CDCO), Monash University, RMIT University and Griffith University. 

Each of these institutes offers sophisticated scientific and technical expertise in research applications and techniques that have helped to support the development of MycRx's small molecule Myc inhibitors.

Executive Director of Cancer Research at Peter MacCallum, Prof Ricky Johnstone, stated: "The research collaboration between MycRx and Peter Mac is strategically important, mutually beneficial and scientifically very exciting. For many years, drugging Myc has been great in theory but almost impossible to achieve.  We believe that our partnership with MycRx provides the best opportunity for us to finally achieve this aspirational goal."

The promising data package MycRx has generated to date has attracted interest from investors and commercial partners. 

As Dr Chris Burns, MycRx Senior Vice President of Research and Development, explained: "The research enabled through the BTB grant has allowed us to further progress our promising drug leads to generate, with our collaborators, encouraging data showing the potential of these molecules in cancer treatment."