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Chinese drugmaker aids local biotech firm

A fledgling Buffalo biotechnology company has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with a Chinese pharmaceutical firm to help the local business develop a potential cancer treatment.

The deal signed Wednesday between Photolitec LLC and Hisun Pharma calls for the Buffalo company to receive $6 million in funding over the five-year agreement, with the potential for more if certain milestones are met.

The agreement will provide Photolitec, which is a spinoff from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, with the funding it needs to conduct the first phase of clinical trials in what company officials believe, if successful, will be a five-year push to bring its first products to market.

"In the long run, it will provide us with a lot of opportunity," said Ravindra K. Pandey, Photolitec's founder and chief scientific officer.

"We need a lot of funding to move it forward to a clinical trial. It is very expensive," Pandey said. "For private companies, it's very difficult to get funding."

Photolitec was formed to develop "photosensitizing" compounds that can be injected into a cancer patient and, when used in conjunction with lasers, can not only illuminate a tumor but also activate compounds that can combat the cancer.

The deal does not give Hisun an equity stake in Photolitec, although Hisun has the first rights to license Photolitec's products. The companies also plan to set up a joint venture in China.

"One of the things that's really important for Roswell Park is to have an environment that will create that kind of entrepreneurial sprit for our researchers," said Candace Johnson, Roswell Park's deputy director. "It will contribute to the economic development of our region."

Photolitec's compounds have passed the preclinical stage and currently are being evaluated in toxicological studies, where Pandey said the results have been promising. After that, Photolitec plans to take the most promising technology from each of type of photodynamic therapy technology and move it into a Phase One clinical study. The company's goal is to begin a Phase One study for at least one product per year.


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