Akanocure Pharmaceuticals Develop Cancer Drugs From Natural Products

Akanocure Pharmaceuticals Develop Cancer Drugs From Natural Products
Akanocure founders Mohammad Noshi and Sherine
Abdelmawla pose next to their synthesizer.
(Credit: Purdue Research Foundation)
The importance of natural products for medicine and health has been enormous throughout our history. Our earliest ancestors chewed on herbs to relieve pain and wrapped leaves around wounds to improve healing. In fact, natural products have often been the sole means to treat diseases and injuries, and it is only during the past decades that it has taken a secondary role in drug discovery. However, the past few years have seen a renewed interest in natural compounds, specifically as a basis for drug development. We now have tools to uncover the biological effects of these compounds on the human body, giving much promise to the development of new therapies against many devastating diseases, including cancer.

The startup Akanocure Pharmaceuticals aim to develop chemotherapeutic drugs derived from natural sources. While transferring natural products to the clinic can be difficult due to lack of sustainable supply, Akanocure’s founders, Sherine Abdelmawla and Mohammad Noshi, have invented a patented methodology to solve this, called Chiral Carbon Catolog (CCC). The technology, invented at Purdue University, allows industrial scale synthesis of complex natural products to ensure adequate supply for development and clinical purposes.

Akanocure’s first application of the methodology is to synthesize a scarce natural product with potent anti-cancer activity. The product is effective through multiple mechanisms of actions and has been shown to increase the lifespan of mice between 200-500% in different tumor models. At the same time, the molecule has four different targets within the cancer cells, leading to inhibition of cancer progression, metastasis and relapse of cancer, and decreasing the chances of resistance.
The company plans to synthesize and develop the molecule for treatment of advanced recurrent metastatic ovarian cancer as an orphan indication, with a long-term strategy of pursuing other indications including melanoma, lung, colon, pancreatic and breast cancers.
The startup was selected to be part of the FOUNDER.org class of 2016, who choose the 50 most innovative startups from universities around the world and award them up to $100,000. The company will also participate in an entrepreneurial program created by the American Chemical Society. These programs will help Akanocure gain access to legal advice, connection to commercial partners and funding, for them to reach their full potential.