With a new in-licensing deal signed and sealed, Sackville, N.B.-based biotech Soricimed Biopharma is preparing to begin its Phase I human tests for its own cancer drug and cancer diagnostic product in 2012.

On Wednesday, the company announced that it has in-licensed a proprietary peptide from the University Health Network of Toronto so it can commercialize the drug. A peptide is a small protein, and this particular peptide can stop growth in cervical, bone and lung cancer cells. It has similar properties to the peptide Soricimed has been developing for the past six years.

In an interview yesterday, Soricimed CEO Paul Gunn said the company is ready to proceed in the new year with the Phase I clinical trials on the cancer drug and diagnostic test that sprang out of the discovery of its own peptide. Soricimed's drugs have demonstrated a capability to reduce tumor growth comparable to chemotherapy but with no demonstrable serious side-effects, says the company.

Soricimed, which has raised $10.5 million in funding, plans to take the drug and diagnostic through Phase I trials simultaneously, then find a large drug company to partner with for the second and third phases. Phase II and III trials can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

About a year ago, the company began to make contact with major drug companies, to make sure they knew of Soricimed’s developments and to ensure the company’s plans were in keeping with what the market wanted.

``We’re got interest from pretty much all the major players, and most of the Tier 2 companies, who are still huge by any normal standards,’’ said Gunn.

As it takes its own product, known in-house as SORC13, through Phase I trials, Soricimed plans to begin work on the peptide it just licensed from Dr. Mansoor Husain of the University of Toronto. Gunn said the peptides are so similar as a class of compounds that Soricimed should be able to save money because it knows the route it should follow in bringing the drug to market.

Soricimed has raised almost $6 million from private investors in New Brunswick, aided by the province’s Investor Tax Credit program, and almost $5 million through the programs of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the National Research Council.