In 2017, a promising Washington University Start-Up, ProteXase Therapeutics, took up residence in BIOSTL, a cornerstone of the St Louis’s Innovation Corridor. Immediately, ProteXase’s founders began pursuing their vision of creating a unique approach to both inhibit cancer tumor progression and to overcome resistance to targeted cancer therapy. ProteXase Therapeutics’ means to that end is their development of small molecule inhibitors called synthetic (s) HGF (H) Activator (A) Inhibitors (I) or sHAIs.
sHAIs are part of a new class of anticancer drugs, targeted cancer therapies, which minimize the damage to normal cells by inhibiting the therapeutic targets that are specifically up-regulated or activated in tumors. Currently, while cancer patients initially respond to targeted therapy, many patients can rapidly acquire resistance to kinase inhibitors. As kinase inhibitor resistance remains one of the biggest challenges in cancer treatment, there is an urgent need for the upfront inhibition of kinase receptors and the HGF ligand to overcome resistance and improve patient outcomes.
ProteXase Therapeutics has designed sHAI compounds that specifically inhibit the serine proteases. These compounds have shown potent anticancer activity in multiple cancer types (including breast, prostate, pancreas, lung, and colon cancer) by blocking tumor-promoting communication between cancer cells and cancer associated fibroblasts. In addition, ProteXase’s sHAIs have demonstrated the ability to overcome and prevent resistance to kinase inhibitors and receptor antibodies in colon and lung cancer.
At the dawn of a new decade, ProteXase Therapeutics is eager to build on their research success to accelerate their rational drug discovery and development.