Drug discovery pioneers e-Therapeutics' losses widen but investment is bearing fruit

The firm, which has a Newcastle operation, reported progress on trials of its lead cancer drug and advancements in its Drug Discover Platform

Professor Malcolm Young, chief executive of e-Therapeutics
Professor Malcolm Young, chief executive of e-Therapeutics

Drug discovery outfit e-Therapeutics plc has widened operating losses as it drives research and development activity, but says two years of investment is bearing fruit.

The AIM-listed firm, which operates a Newcastle base, is currently in the midst of a cancer drug trial which it expects to update the market on in the final quarter of 2014.

Its lead cancer drug, ETS2101, is being trialled in the UK and US in a variety of solid tumour and brain cancer patients.

In the UK, 31 solid tumour patients have taken the drug with two “hypersensitivity events”. Despite this, e-Therapeutics said investigators would not consider these “events” to be dose-limiting.

Meanwhile, in the US, 18 brain cancer patients are trialling the drug. Some have experienced similar short-term side effects to those in the UK trial, but the firm said no serious adverse events had occurred.

e-Therapeutics stated it was on the cusp of rolling out phase Ib/II of trials of the ETS2101 product.

Research and development spending at the Newcastle University spin-out increased to £4.4m in the six months to July 31 - leaving pre-tax half year operating losses wider at £5.3m, up from £3m the year before.

R&D tax credits meant the firm’s losses after tax amounted to £4.1m across the six month period.

The firm said substantial investment in its Network Pharmacology Discovery platform had helped to accelerate productivity, bringing processing speeds up to 20 times faster than two years ago.

In practice, the development means computational analysis of a disease process, that could have taken up to six months in the past, can now be completed in just over a week.

Professor Malcolm Young, chief executive officer of e-Therapeutics, said: “As our clinical programmes continue apace in four current clinical trials, a further key change for the Company in the period has been the tangible acceleration in processing speeds and productivity of our Discovery platform based on network pharmacology. Over the past two years, we have been fortunate to receive significant funding to invest in the discovery engine.

“We are now seeing the results of this investment, from network analysis processing speeds that are 20 times faster to a greatly enhanced database of protein interaction and compound bioactivity data. We will select the most promising compounds and expect them to enter pre-clinical development by the end of H2 2015 to enter the clinic in 2017.

“e-Therapeutics is in a strong position to deliver shareholder value as it capitalises on fully functioning drug discovery and clinical development programmes with a strong balance sheet. We look forward to providing further updates in the short term on our development programmes and in the medium term on our discovery activities.”

In the firm’s half year results, current chairman Professor Oliver James announced his intention to retire at the end of 2014.

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