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The Celtic Biotech ‘snake in the glass’ logo is symbolic of the venom extraction process as the first step in the process to isolate therapeutic proteins for medicinal use. It matches and combines the elaborate Celtic image of a snake, traditionally associated with healing, regeneration and rebirth, with the therapeutic use of these healing peptides.
Many Celtic healers appear with snakes, often associated with water, rivers and curative spirits. The serpent represents the cyclic nature of life due to the annual shedding of its skin. It is a symbol of rebirth, shedding its old skin and re-emerging in the spring from the winter's hibernation, seemingly immortal.
The coiled serpent with its tail in its mouth — Ouroboros — is a circle of infinity and eternity, representing cyclical evolution primordial unity, the idea of the beginning and the end as unending principles of life. It entered Western tradition via ancient Egyptian iconography and the Greek magical tradition. It was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy
Celtic Biotech is researching therapeutic components of venoms from the South American rattlesnake Crotalus Durrissus and it’s sub-species. The Company is also examining the combination of these with protein components with proteins from Cobra venom, in particular cardiotoxin. These therapies are elaborated on further in the Pipeline Section of the website.
Crotoxin is the principle active agent of interest to Celtic Biotech. It has been studied extensively by numerous research institutions and it’s mechanism of action has been described in several peer reviewed publications. Crotoxin is unusual in that is it comprised of two similar protein subunits; one targets the drug to the receptor and the second is a membrane disrupting enzyme. It is thought that Crocalbine, a transmembrane protein overexpressed in many tumour cells, may be the primary target for Crotoxin (Calvo et al Cancer Res, 2002). When Crotoxin binds to this receptor the enzyme is released by the targeting subunit where it digests the membrane surface releasing pieces of membrane that trigger a sequence of events leading to the tumour cell’s self-destruction.
The drugs, Crotoxin and CTC-310, possess several desirable properties as therapeutics:
For clinical trial summaries, please see our webpage on Clinical Trials.
CB24 (Crotoxin) is the lead drug candidate for Celtic Biotech. It has been employed alone and in combination with Cardiotoxin. Both products have been employed in human cancer treatments.
Of 65 patients clinically treated to date 32 (49%) achieved a therapeutic benefit with 10 having stabilised disease (SD), 15 a partial response (PR) and 7 achieved remission (R), i.e. no disease detected. Diseases with recorded responses (SD, PR or R) include; breast, pancreatic, adenocarcinoma, liposarcoma, mesothelioma, fusocellular sarcoma, glioma, NSCLC, cervical, ovarian, rectal, squamous cell, chordoma, larynx, thyroid, fibrosarcoma, malignant histiocytoma, and prostate (this is not to say that all patients with these diseases had responses and further clinical trials are required to confirm early indications and identify optimum treatment protocols).
However, these results are remarkable for patients who have serious advanced disease and having failed pre-treatment with approved therapies. It is further remarkable that the dosage regime for Crotoxin has yet to be optimised (with patients in the Celtic Biotech trials so far receiving a low therapeutic dosage over a very short time span. This conservative approach was designed to confirm i.v. therapeutic levels in an escalating protocol with patient safety utmost in mind). The Company's planned Phase I part 3 will provide increased dosage over a longer treatment period with a larger cohort of patients recruited.
The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) is not yet established. The purpose of the planned Phase I part 3 is to identify exactly this before moving on to Phase II efficacy trials. So far patients in Celtic Biotech trials have had few drug related adverse events (only one serious adverse event (SAE) was reported during Phase I Part 2. This may also have been due to prior treatments the patient had. The patient responded to treatment.
The Company’s lead compound has indicated therapeutic action against a variety of solid tumours, lung cancer among them. Due to the large unmet need in the lung cancer therapeutic field the Company deems it prudent to initially target this patient group.
Facts about lung cancer:
In 2020, lung cancer occurred in 2.2 million people and resulted in 1.8 million deaths globally. It is the most common cause of cancer-related death. According to data provided by the US National Cancer Institute, the median age at diagnosis of lung cancer in the US is 70 years, and the median age at death is 72 years.
Lung cancer recently surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of smoking-related mortality. Most lung carcinomas are diagnosed at an advanced stage, conferring a poor prognosis. Despite 25 years of intense R&D, patient five-year survival rates have failed to improve within the most common form of lung cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).
For these reasons lung cancer will be a prime target of the Company's research. However any disease type in which the company products indicate beneficial activity will be supported, with the Company particularly interested to target Orphan diseases.
Apart from any earlier possibilities under regulatory Compassionate Release programmes, the Company believes that approval to market this drug could be obtained as early as 2025. This will largely hinge on the success of the clinical programme and regulatory approval applications
There are many factors that determine if patients can participate in clinical trials. Only centres that are involved in the conduct of clinical trials can enroll patients. The Company will promote future proprietary trials on its website, with details of location and recruitment policies.
Several Phase I Human Clinical trials had already been completed with Crotoxin and VRCTC310. The Company has since completed 2 parts of its own proprietary Phase I study with a new method of administration which has reconfirmed the tolerability and safety indications of the product with i.v. method of administration. The ultra-cautious treatment protocols also confirmed the potential for efficacy, and in Part 2, whilst administered in the untypical setting of the patient’s home.
Employing venoms as therapeutics is not new and is fast-growing as pharma-biotech companies push to grow innovative pipelines and patients seek more natural therapies. A large number of well-known pharmaceutical companies are developing novel therapies derived from snake venoms and other reptiles. Most of those using snake venoms employ the anticoagulant enzymes usually from viperids (adders and rattlesnakes) though elapids (cobra family) are unusual.
In China, a pain-killing drug, Ke Tong Ning, that has been on sale since 1978 contains cobratoxin (from cobra venom) as its primary ingredient. Several companies are working with scorpion toxins mainly in the anticancer field.
Botox (botulinum toxin) a bacterial neurotoxin, is a most toxic biological product, and is being developed for a number of applications by Allergan (now AbbVie) and Elan (now Perrigo) but has been increasingly popular for cosmetics applications.
A number of Companies are using venom components;
Abbot Laboratories – acquired Knoll Pharmaceuticals from 3M who are developing a drug, ANCROD, which is formulated from the venom of the Malayan pit viper to be administered following stroke. Epibatide, from poisonous frogs, was recently dropped by Abbot for an application to the treatment of pain.
Amylin Pharmaceuticals developed a peptide, extending-4, from the saliva of the Gila monster (poisonous lizard) that promotes the release of insulin. It was subsequently licensed to Eli Lilly.
Bristol Myers Squibb developed Captopril from the venom of the adder Bothrops as an inhibitor of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) for antihypertensive applications.
British Biotech PLC, (now merged with Vernalis) began the development of Marimastat, a metalloprotease inhibitor from snakes for cancer applications.
Cognetix, Utah, developing Conussnail venom anticholinergic peptides for stroke therapy.
COR Therapeutics and Schering-Plough Corpco-market Integrilin, known generically as eptifibatide, is based on a protein called disintegrin taken from the pygmy rattlesnake.
Elan Pharmaceuticals, purchased Neurex to acquire rights to SNX111 (Ziconitide), a pain killing peptide from Conus snails.
Merck makes a heart drug called Aggrastat, which is also based on disintegrin - this non-peptide agent is taken from the African saw-scaled viper snake.
Pentapharm (Switzerland) market two venom-derived products, Defibrase and Haemocoagulase, similar to Ancrod (Abbott Labs).
ReceptoPharm USA developed cobra venom for the treatment of HIV and multiple sclerosis.