San Antonio—A small Texas biotech that develops women’s health products, including a generic birth control ring, has received a $960,000 grant from the Department of Defense to continue early stage work on experimental treatments for triple-negative breast cancer.
Evestra, which is located just outside of San Antonio, in Schertz, TX, plans to use the three-year grant to study the toxicology and pharmacology of its potential candidates of antiprogestins, according to CEO Ze’ev Shaked. Antiprogestins play a role regulating hormones, and may stop cancer cell growth, according to the National Cancer Institute. The company will also work with Ratna Vadlamudi, a professor and researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, on animal studies of the therapeutics. Ratna is also receiving $761, 298 in grant funding from the DoD for the work.
The antiprogestins are being studied as cytotoxic anti-tumor agents, and may have a range of cancer applications in addition to breast cancer, Evestra chief scientific officer Klaus Nickisch said in a news release. Evestra’s compounds take aim at a type of protein known as leukemia inhibitory factor, which can play a role in tumor cell growth; it appears the Evestra treatments may inhibit that, which Shaked says would be a new class of anti-cancer compounds.
“This was a highly unusual finding since this class of compounds (antiprogestins) do not exhibit such strong cytotoxic activity,” Shaked wrote in an e-mail.
Evestra is developing a variety of women’s healthcare products, including treatments for endometriosis and fibroids, which both affect the uterus, and a generic version of the NuvaRing birth control product, which Evestra hopes to bring to market in 2019 with the U.S. division of Mumbai, India-based Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.
Earlier this year, Budapest, Hungary pharmaceutical firm Gedeon Richter acquired an undisclosed equity stake in Evestra.