NEW YORK--The earth's oceans are yielding a multitude of new sources
of anticancer and anti-HIV agents, possibly with unique mechanisms
of action (see illustration on page 1). In only 8 years of operation,
Pharma Mar, s.a. (Madrid, Spain) has developed a library of more
than 20,000 marine samples and has isolated some 350 novel marine-based
compounds, including 40 that have been patented.
Jose Jimeno, MD, vice president of clinical research at Pharma
Mar, s.a., Spain's only biotech company, spoke to Oncology News
International while visiting the United States to review with
the National Cancer Institute (NCI) several Pharma Mar products
undergoing trials there.
Also interviewed were Pharma Mar, s.a. president and CEO Michael
Rosen, and vice president of preclinical research Glynn Faircloth,
PhD. Dr. Faircloth is also chief operating officer of Pharma Mar,
U.S.A. (Cambridge, Mass).
In addition to collaborations with the NCI, the company is working
with the Pasteur Institute, Paris, the European Organization for
Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), the EORTC's New Drug
Development Office (NDDO), and 29 research laboratories and universities
around the world.
"The NCI and EORTC are only interested in working with unique
compounds with new mechanisms of action," Mr. Rosen said,
"and all of the compounds that we are bringing forward appear
to have potent and unique mechanisms."
Pharma Mar has developed methods for primary screening for anticancer
compounds using a range of human tumor cell lines. "We screen
in a disease-oriented way as opposed to a mechanistic approach,"
Dr. Faircloth said.
The company first determines that a compound has anticancer activity
and only later delves into possible mechanisms of action. "I
think this is the opposite approach to some biotech firms who
look first at mechanisms of action and then test to see if the
agent is effective," he added.