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.