Astra Zeneca buys cancer drugs company for £124m

ProfThurston300The giant UK pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca has bought a drugs company founded by a University of Portsmouth scientist and former student for £124m.

The company, Spirogen Ltd, is developing ground-breaking drugs which target cancer with “warhead-like accuracy” without destroying healthy cells. Some of its drugs are now in Phase II clinical trials.

David Thurston (pictured), now Professor of Drug Discovery at King’s College London, headed a research group at the University of Portsmouth between 1987 and 1999. He co-founded Spirogen in 2000

While at Portsmouth, Professor Thurston’s research team developed a novel DNA binding drug which is now undergoing Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of ovarian cancer and leukaemia.

Spirogen also specialises in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), which represent a clinically-validated cancer drug technology that offers and the selective targeting of cancer cells with high potency. This targeting mechanism optimises the delivery of the cancer drug to tumour cells and provides the greatest degree of tumour cell killing while minimising the toxicity to the patient.

Professor Thurston, together with Professor Geoff Kneale, Professor of Biomolecular Science, co-founded the Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences (IBBS) 15 years ago as one of the University’s flagship research institutes

Professor Kneale said: “It is very rewarding when the fundamental research we started in IBBS many years ago is translated into the clinic. It gives me great confidence that much of the research we are currently engaged in will find equally successful clinical applications, with a real impact on people’s lives.”

This material is protected by copyright Ken Hurst 2013.


About Ken Hurst

Ken Hurst began his career as a journalist in London over 30 years ago, working on a range of publications before moving on to weekly newspaper production in the newly-independent Zambia of the 1970s. He returned to the UK where his work included spells on newspapers and magazines, before moving to head up Norwich Union’s corporate affairs division. In the 1990s he moved on to freelance, co-own and publish the B2B audio magazine Sound and front the BBC radio Yesterday’s Papers programme. There followed six years as Business Editor at Britain’s biggest selling regional daily newspaper, The Eastern Daily Press, where he led an award-winning team and for whom he still writes a weekly socio/political comment column. Subsequently, he was Group Editorial Director at CBM, responsible for its UK and US magazine output – including The Manufacturer magazine – research-driven industry reports and live events content. Currently he is Contributing Editor at Works Management magazine publisher Findlay Media and Chairman of the consumer publishing house TNT Multimedia Ltd. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the British Association of Communicators in Business.
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