NICHE PRODUCT: The new drug Virexxa is designed to treat a rare form of cancer.
TALLINN - Virexxa, a drug candidate developed at the Estonian Cancer Research Technology Development Center, will be produced by Estonian company Kevelt, in what is of symbolic importance for the Estonian bio-technology industry, reports Public Broadcasting.
The new drug is meant for the treatment of IVth stadium endometrial cancer. It is a rare type of cancer that has 25,000 women a year in Europe suffering from it. In Estonia, six women a year could need Virexxa.
Estonian Cancer Research Technology Development Center manager Riin Ehin said that large pharmaceuticals companies are unwilling to develop medicines for rare types of cancer since the market size, and therefore profits, is not big enough for them. The relatively small - 10 billion dollar - market is attractive enough for an Estonian company, though.
Sixty-six million euros was invested in Pharmsynthes, the parent firm of Kevelt, which is the partner company of the Cancer Research Technology Development Center, in order to produce Virexxa in Estonia. “The current decision of these companies is that 8 million dollars of this investment will come to Estonia over the next two years and will be spent to build a production unit where medicine candidates for the European Union and U.S. markets would be produced,” said Ehin.
Virexxa is initially a medicine candidate until it receives a sales permit, which in Estonia is granted by the Pharmaceuticals Board together with the European Pharmaceuticals Board.
“Our current plans show that we should receive the real sales permit in around 1.5-2 years time,” said Kevelt board member Allan Ahtloo.
North Estonian Regional Hospital board chairman Tonis Allik says that it is of symbolic importance for Estonian bio-technology that a candidate medicine developed here will also be produced here. “In the current case the so-called orphan medicines are a niche option for a small country like Estonia to prove itself and not sell the development to large companies, just like it is Kevelt’s plan today, but to keep the final medicine producer [here] to supply European and American hospitals,” said Allik.
In cooperation with the Cancer Research Technology Development Center and Kevelt, another drug is in the clinical trial stage, Oncohist, against rare types of leukemia.