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Rexahn Pharmaceuticals Licenses Potential Cancer Rxs from Korean Chemical Research Institute

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Rexahn Pharmaceuticals said this week that it has exclusively licensed from the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology intellectual property related to a synthetic process for producing quinoxaline compounds as potential cancer therapies.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rexahn, based in Rockville, Md., said will acquire all intellectual property related to quinoxaline-piperazine derivatives that were synthesized under a previous joint research agreement between Rexahn and KRICT.

Specifically, Rexhan has exercised an option to receive an exclusive license to use, develop, and commercialize the intellectual property.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Rexahn's relationship with KRICT, a government-supported research institution, dates back to at least 2003, when the organizations entered into a joint research agreement to accelerate the discovery of potential drugs targeting protein kinases.

That agreement was to run for three years, and paired more than 20 combinatorial chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and high-throughput screening researchers at KRICT with Rexahn scientists. According to that agreement, Rexahn was to receive access to KRICT’s chemical libraries; and discoveries resulting from the research would be jointly owned, with Rexahn holding an option to exclusively license any discovered compounds.

According to Chang Ahn, Rexahn's chairman and CEO, the most recent licensing agreement stems from one part of the joint research collaboration inked in 2003, which was extended in 2006 for two additional years.

"Under that agreement, we were developing anti-cancer compounds using two approaches," Ahn told BTW this week. "One was a medicinal chemistry-based discovery program, and the other was a combinatorial chemistry program involving different structures."

The licensing deal announced this week is based on the combinatorial chemistry approach, in which KRICT would synthesize compounds for testing at its facility and Rexhan would conduct screening assays against a cancer cell line at its laboratories, Ahn said. The compounds unearthed during the course of the research were jointly owned, but Rexahn "decided to license in the rest of the rights owned by KRICT," he added.

Rexahn is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company commercializing oncology and CNS therapeutics. According to the company, researchers at KRICT and Rexahn have demonstrated that quinoxalines exhibit selective toxicity toward hypoxic cells, which are found in solid tumors and are typically resistant to anticancer drugs and radiation therapy.

As such, quinoxaline-based drugs represent a potential potent treatment for solid tumors, the company said. In addition, multiple scientific publications and published patents address the use of quinoxalines to inhibit protein kinases.

Ahn said that Rexahn will continue to collaborate with KRICT on drug discovery; however, whereas the company previously provided undisclosed financial support for the partnership, it now has no financial commitment to the collaboration.

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