Two SMEs brought together by the Enterprise Europe Network are working on getting anti-cancer drugs faster to patients.
IUCT is a Barcelona-based firm that develops and licenses technology to the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Its quest for partners led it to the Enterprise Europe Network, whose 3,000-plus experts in more than 50 countries help SMEs source or license cutting-edge technologies. "One way we open doors is by taking clients abroad to meet potential partners," says Mónica Durán, a Barcelona-based Network expert with ACC1Ó.
During a Network-organised company mission to Finland, IUCT met Pharmatest Services Ltd., a Turku-based pre-clinical contract research SME suggested by Marjo Uotila at Finnish Science Park Association TEKEL. "Since I knew all the ICT and life sciences players," she says, "it was easy to recruit a suitable match." Her hunch was right on the mark, and the two firms joined forces for a three-year, €1.5 million research project partly funded by the EU's Eurostars programme.
Durán also recalls the role that the Network played in helping to identify the right partner and then bring the project to life: "The challenges were, in the first place, to offer a good quality agenda during the mission in Finland for our client, knowing its considerable expertise in relation to research projects. Once they met the right partner, the next challenge was to help them find a source of financing for the project by lobbying our national innovation agency."
Using a faster and safer test method pioneered by Pharmatest in the combination of the high throughput biotechnology platform (HTB) developed by IUCT during this project, the partners identified 15 promising new drug candidates for breast and prostate cancer out of more than 500 screened.
"You usually have to screen several thousands to get just one," says Marta Pascual, IUCT's Drug Discovery Director Department. Later when the compounds are sold or licensed, both Pharmatest and IUCT stand to reap huge financial gains. "Our methodology has huge potential," says Pharmatest CEO Jussi Halleen.
The Network's reach, services and expertise allow it to play a special role in helping to bring about partnerships like this. Durán emphasises the strong sense of community and purpose felt by ACC1Ó as a Network expert: "We value being part of a unique non-for-profit international network that works in more than 54 countries with a unique protocol and good standards of performance for clients."