New approach


HOX was founded in 2013 to explore the pharmaceutical applications of the research into HOX genes by its founders, Professor Hardev Pandha and Professor Richard Morgan at the Institute of Cancer Research at Surrey University Oncology department. Professors Pandha and Morgan are respectively eminent medical oncologists and molecular oncologists.

HOX genes

HOX genes are developmental genes involved in the orchestration of organ development in the embryo. They are present in all vertebrates and typically they become inactive shortly after birth. However, in cancer, they appear to become overexpressed. The team established that inhibition of the interaction of HOX genes with partner PBX proteins, to prevent the formation of a HOX/PBX dimer resulted in rapid cell death (apoptosis).

Extensive research programme

The interaction of HOX and PBX has been the subject of an extensive research programme by HOX and the development of peptides, HXR9, and its successor, HTL-001, have shown promising therapeutic potential in their ability to kill cancer in both in-vitro and in-vivo experiments.

A full pre-IND toxicology study has demonstrated an acceptable safety profile for intravenous HTL-001 and is currently being considered for direct intra-tumoral delivery to the prostate.     

graphic to show intra-tumoural delivery

New opportunity identified

In 2020, using in-house expertise at Surrey University, the team identified a new opportunity in the field of prostate cancer, specifically the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRMP).

Prostate cancer affects around one million men worldwide. For those where the cancer has proliferated beyond the prostate gland, the standard therapy is androgen deprivation therapy (“ADT”) and androgen receptor blockade, as it has been shown that androgen, produced primarily from the testes, drives prostate cancer through the androgen receptors. Medical/chemical castration??


draft graphic design showing advanced stage

However, a small percentage of patients, and eventually almost all patients, become resistant to both hormone deprivation and to drugs that block the androgen receptors. This resistance is due to the emergence of AR variants which have lost the ligand binding site targeted by current androgen receptor antagonists.

The answer is a new dual inhibitor

HOX is developing a new dual inhibitor of the androgen receptor which blocks both the binding site targeted by current dugs, and second site that also drives the cancer.

draft graphic

Early development work on our dual androgen receptor inhibitor is extremely encouraging and we are currently in the process of preparing a development programme to deliver a lead molecule to the clinic.

Strategic Plan

Our dual androgen receptor development programme represents an opportunity to address a market with considerable unmet medical need and one served by drugs with annual sales in excess of $5 billion. It also offers a relatively straightforward, small molecule, development pathway with a clear target patient population and benchmarked against current standard of care.

HOX current strategy in prostate cancer is to prioritise the development of its dual androgen receptor programme (HTL-003) using internal resources while seeking partnerships to progress its HOX targeted approach (HTL-001).      

HOX timeline