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New lung cancer research backed by investment

University of York spinout company, Cizzle Biotechnology, has secured venture capital funding from the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund to continue its development of a potential new diagnostic test and treatment for lung cancer.

The finance will enable Cizzle to progress its research into a potential new method of diagnosing and treating lung cancer, based on the discovery of the role that the protein Ciz 1 appears to play in triggering DNA replication and cell growth. As cancer is associated with abnormal cell growth, the Cizzle team ultimately hope to confirm that blocking the actions of this protein will prevent tumours from occurring or slow down the growth of existing tumours.

The company is based on the research of Dr Dawn Coverley, Lister Research Fellow in the School of Biology at the University of York, and her collaborator Dr Justin Ainscough. She says: “Our research shows that Ciz 1 plays a role in initiation of DNA replication, and recent evidence suggests that this role is disrupted in lung cancer cells. We aim to target the disrupted form of Ciz1 to generate a completely new and selective way of both diagnosing and treating small cell lung cancers. Current chemotherapies restrain the growth of all cells in the body and therefore have poorly tolerated side effects, but what we are trying to do is target the lung cancer cells specifically.”

Lung cancers are the second most common form of cancer in the West but are the most common cause of cancer death. Small cell lung cancers, associated with cigarette smoking, account for 25 per cent of all lung cancers. Cizzle plans to develop a diagnostic test and therapy to combat this specific cancer, filling a significant gap in this market. It is also possible that this technology may be applicable to other cancers.

Coverley, whose work in this area was supported by the Yorkshire Forward Bioscience Yorkshire Enterprise Fellowship scheme (BYEF) will become Chief Scientific Officer. Simon Ward, an experienced bioscience entrepreneur who set up Sheffield biotech company Molecular Skincare Ltd, then oversaw its merger into AIM listed York Pharma was Coverley’s mentor during her time within the BYEF programme. Ward will provide consultancy services to the company.

Dr Joe Wiley, Fund Manager of the White Rose Technology Seedcorn Fund said:
“This is an excellent opportunity to support a home grown company involved in new and truly innovative cancer therapy. In deciding whether to invest, we look for world class research, a committed and experienced management team and a strong market opportunity. Cizzle Biotechnology has all of these in abundance. The potential benefits to the medical sector are enormous and we are pleased to be able to support Cizzle’s research and development.”

Dr Joe Wiley | alfa
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