Estonian company to produce nation’s first cancer drug


Tallinn-based Competence Center for Cancer Research has developed a late-stage endometrial cancer treatment drug, which will be the first internationally marketed cancer drug by an Estonian company.

Endometrial cancer is rare, and the drug (named Virexxa) will be a niche product. However, it could help to lengthen the lives of as many as 25,000 women in Europe and six women in Estonia each year. The drug, developed with the help of scientists in St. Petersburg as well as international funding, could be in production in two years.

“Often when endometrial cancer is in a later stage, then the hormonal treatment which is normally prescribed has no effect as the necessary receptors have perished. Our drug candidate re-grows these receptors, meaning that hormonal treatments which can help patients begin to have an affect again,” said Riin Ehin, the head of the research center.

The drug will be produced by AS Kevelt, which expects to have a sales license from the U.S. and European Union in two years' time and has already agreed to invest eight million euros into production facilities in Estonia. Kevelt is owned by Russian Pharmsynthez, an RTS-listed company, the majority of which is owned by Estonian investors.

The owners of the Russian company have invested a total of 20 million euros for developing the new drug. Furthermore, Pharmsynthez has received 46 million euros from international biological drug and diagnostics firm OPKO Health Acquieries Interest for the new drug.

Ehin also said that larger pharmaceutical companies have neglected drug development for rare cancers as the market is too small, but these markets are attractive to the Estonian company. Pharmsynthez plans to make Kevelt the center for the cancer drug development for the whole group. The company prefers Estonia as the location because it is in the European Union, and because the company’s Estonian employees are the best specialists within the group.

Established in 1992, Kevel is a small company with 25 employees, but the start of the cancer drug production would grow its personnel to 45. Currently it manufactures medicinal products in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, peripheral cardiovascular diseases and glaucoma. The company is also in the process of developing a new drug to treat rare blood cancers.

Source: (2013) Estonian Company Looking to Produce Nation’s First Cancer Drug. ERR Uudised, 22. mai