Drug Discovery

Bionetix collaboration seeks novel cancer drug that targets a genetic switch

October 2, 2017

Southern Research and Bionetix Inc., a South Korea-based biotech firm, have signed a research and license agreement to develop a new anti-cancer drug that affects a key genetic switch associated with suppression and regulation of the growth of certain types of cancer.

The goal of the research is to develop a novel drug that would block, or inhibit, certain epigenetic processes linked to changes in tumor cell DNA that allow those cells to survive and begin spreading.

A new drug that inhibits these processes could also be useful against chemotherapy-resistant tumors in combination with targeted cancer therapeutics and as an adjunct therapy for cancer immunotherapies.

This collaboration is based on the extensive expertise of Birmingham-based Southern Research in the discovery of novel cancer therapeutics including promising research on the regulation of tumor growth by controlling how genes are turned on and off in the cell

Southern Research drug discovery
Southern Research boasts an extensive drug discovery infrastructure along with expertise in chemistry and biology.

“The collaborative effort with Bionetix will allow us to accelerate our exploration of an epigenetic approach that could produce life-saving anti-cancer agents as well as continue our commitment to the identification of novel therapeutics,” said Mark Suto, Ph.D., vice president of Southern Research’s Drug Discovery Division.

Doo Young Jung, CEO of Bionetix, said the teams seek to develop new epigenetic enzyme inhibitors that are more effective than existing drugs so their use can be expanded to successfully treat a broader range of cancers.

“I believe that this collaborative research program will help to expedite the development of novel inhibitors into the clinic so that we can contribute benefits to cancer patients,” he said.


Under the Bionetix agreement, Southern Research will conduct studies to identify and optimize new inhibitors of methyl transferases as potential drug candidates. In collaboration with Bionetix, Southern Research will also define the overall development strategy for the new compounds.

“What we are looking at in this exploratory effort is a wide range of specific genes and biomarkers,” Suto added. “That will help us identify the types of tumors that should be targeted and which patients would be most likely to benefit from the treatment based on this epigenetic approach.”

Southern Research Suto
Mark Suto is Southern Research’s vice president of Drug Discovery.

Southern Research and Bionetix plan to complete the collaborative research program and begin preclinical and clinical development programs by early 2019.

As part of the arrangement, Bionetix can exercise an option to acquire the global exclusive commercialization rights for the optimized inhibitors and the application technologies, and will develop them further independently.

The deal with Bionetix represents the first licensing agreement signed by Southern Research in a decade. Bionetix, based in Suwon, South Korea, is a start-up company backed by venture capital investments.

Bionetix is providing research support for Southern Research, which will provide its extensive expertise in biology and chemistry to move the drug discovery research program forward.

Bionetix is devoted to the development of new small molecule drugs by efficient translation of innovative basic sciences developed by public research institutes. The firm is working with various public research organizations, including Southern Research’s Drug Discovery division, the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, and the Ajou University of Korea, to develop new drugs in the opthalmalogy and oncology fields.

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