Can A Former Gold Miner Cure Cancer?

Until March, Jaguar International Equities was a mining exploration outfit in Vancouver. Out of the blue, the company told its shareholders it had acquired the patent for a nanoscale drug delivery system developed in Germany, dropped its mining business, and reemerged as Advectus Life Sciences.

The company is developing a drug treatment for brain tumors and has already secured $983,000 from angel investors – and is in final negotiations for $328,000 more – to fund its efforts. It is focused on advancing its drug technology. If it can begin an initial phase of human clinical trials by the end of this year, Advectus may soon go out for its first round of institutional funding.

Advectus’ Nanocure may be the first compound small enough to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, a protective coating that surrounds the brain, and deliver drugs directly to the tumor site. According to the American Cancer Society, brain tumors tumor are most commonly attacked with radiation and then removed by surgery. When drugs are used to treat brain tumors, the drug is injected directly into the brain, a procedure that one oncologist says is very rare because drugs are seldom potent enough to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, and even if they do, they cannot do so with any meaningful concentration.

Advectus’ Nanocure is to be injected directly into the bloodstream. It is a three-layer compound: a nanoparticle, which is the frame of the drug. It’s coated by the common anti-tumor drug, doxorubicin. The whole compound is encapsulated by a polymer. Once inside the bloodstream, the compound’s outer layer attracts proteins, which bind themselves to the compound until the original compound begins to look like a form of cholesterol used by the brain. Nanocure tricks the brains’ cholesterol receptors into letting the camouflaged particle into the brain tissue, where the compound breaks down and begins to attack the tumor.

In animal studies completed at the Goethe University ion Frankfurt by Dr. Jorg Kreuter, the inventor of Advectus’ technology, the treatment has sent 40% of brain tumors into remission. The American Cancer Society estimates that 17,000 people in the U.S. this year will be diagnosed with malignant brain tumors – and more than 13,000 of them will die from the tumors. Advectus’ studies are currently being repeated at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Researchers at the University of Kentucky, meanwhile, are studying the compound’s stability and proper dosage levels. If the results are good, the company will begin trials with a group of 15 people at UNC at the end of the year.

Meanwhile the company is building a portfolio licensing deals with Japanese and European drug makers to expand its reach beyond North America – raising capital without diluting the company’s existing shareholders, says Advectus President James Disher. Its group of angels includes doctors as well as venture capitalists. While the company has not yet hit up VCs for a formal round of financing, if it moves into human trials, the company’s capital needs may exceed what it currently has in the bank.

While the company is still in its earliest stages, it’s expecting its life cycle to be unusually short. “We expect some big pharmaceutical will take us over in a year,” Disher says. “The more advanced we are, the bigger that number will be.”

Contact Carolina Braunschweig