Jul. 09, 2002
Progen Industries (ASX:PGL); (Nasdaq:PGLAF) has reached a significant milestone in its program to develop novel drugs to inhibit the enzyme heparanase.
Heparanase is a naturally occurring enzyme that degrades the `glue' (or extracellular matrix) holding cells together. It is widely believed that the inhibition of heparanase may assist in the relief or cure of human illnesses including cancer, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Although the gene for heparanase (known as hpa1 or HPSE) has been identified and cloned through Progen-sponsored research, a major obstacle has been the difficulty to obtain sufficient quantities of the enzyme from laboratory cultures for key structural studies.
Progen has developed a proprietary procedure to isolate enough heparanase to enable the growth of enzyme crystals and to begin x-ray studies to discover its three dimensional structure.
"It is critical to get the enzyme in its most useful form -- a crystal -- for study," explained Dr. Denis Podger, Preclinical Research Manager at Progen Industries. "We have isolated enough heparanase to commence growing the crystals for x-ray studies.
"By bombarding the enzyme with x-rays (a process known as x-ray crystallography) we will be able to work out its structure.
"Once we have figured out the shape of the enzyme, we can design a drug to disable it. We know now that heparanase enables cancer cells to escape by breaking down tissue barriers, so disabling or inhibiting its action may provide hope for a cancer cure," he said.
Heparanase is also implicated in inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. The inhibition of heparanase will prevent the inflow of white blood cells that burrow between cells lining blood vessels resulting in painful inflammation. While inflammation is a normal immune response, the inhibition of heparanase to restrict the number of white blood cells invading a disease site may significantly relieve inflammation.
Progen Industries scientists have achieved this purification and isolation of heparanase. Professor Mark von Itzstein at Griffith University's Centre for Biomolecular Science and Drug Discovery will grow the enzyme crystals and undertake the x-ray crystallographic studies as part of a three year collaboration announced in March last year.
Progen Industries (www.progen.com.au) drug discovery efforts are focused on the development of potent, selective inhibitors of carbohydrate-protein interactions, which are implicated in a range of different diseases. The company's lead drug candidate, PI-88, is under development as a potential treatment for cancer and other diseases. The company is also an internationally recognised player in cGMP drug development and contract manufacturing for local and international biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies including Lipid Sciences Inc., BresaGen, Agen Biomedical and Genesis Research and Development Corporation.
This press release contains forward-looking statements that are based on current management expectations. These statements may differ materially from actual future events or results due to certain risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, risks associated with drug development and manufacture, risks inherent in the extensive regulatory approval process mandated by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration and the United States Food and Drug Administration, the TGA and FDA, requiring additional pre-clinical or clinical testing prior to commencing Phase II trials, patient recruitment, delays in the conduct of clinical trials and in obtaining the necessary approvals for additional clinical testing and for marketing of PI-88, market acceptance of PI-88 and other drugs, future capitals needs, general economic conditions, and other risks and uncertainties detailed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Australian Stock Exchange and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
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