International consortium awarded grant for first-in-class metastatic cancer treatment

ONA Therapeutics, Absolute Antibody and RIC – three leading European companies in the biotech landscape – have been awarded a Eurostars grant for a two-year project that will develop a proprietary biological drug with a unique mode of action for the treatment of various types of metastatic cancers. Taking the lives of more than 9 million people globally each year, metastatic cancers are often unresponsive to existing cancer treatments, leaving a large unmet need. In order to tackle this important health problem, the newly established consortium – named LIPOLOGIC – will combine industry know-how in complementary areas of drug development: from target discovery, across molecule formatting and manufacturing, to lead selection and characterization.

ONA Therapeutics, a Spanish biotech company specialises in the discovery and development of therapeutic biologics targeting tumour metastatic-initiating cells and lipid metabolism, will take the lead in the LIPOLOGIC program.

“Our research demonstrates that the survival of metastatic cells is linked to the intake of certain saturated fats and if we block the capacity for intake of these fats, we significantly reduce the cell’s metastatic potential. We are excited to partner with Absolute Antibody and RIC to develop novel revolutionary therapies that target this mechanism of action and with the potential to treat multiple types of metastatic cancer,” said ONA co-founder and CEO Valerie Vanhooren.

Absolute Antibody, experts in recombinant antibody technology, will engineer the biologic into an optimised format and then recombinantly produce and purify the molecule for preclinical analysis.

According to Ian Wilkinson, Chief Scientific Officer: “Our contribution to the team will result in a reproducible, defined biologic to progress to the IND stage and clinical trials. We are very excited about the potential of this unique mode of action.”

RIC, expert in biopharma analytics, will apply its comprehensive knowledge and in-house platforms to provide the CMC data necessary for evaluating the project’s candidate molecules and selecting the best lead: identifying physicochemical liabilities, better understanding target binding through epitope mapping and evaluating overall pharmacokinetics.

“The complex nature of biological products makes the development of innovative therapies like these truly challenging. We are proud to bring our analytical skill set to the table and help make this new type of treatment a reality,” said Koen Sandra, CEO at RIC.

The LIPOLOGIC consortium has just kicked off its pre-clinical development against a variety of tumour types and plans to move its lead candidate into first clinical studies in patients with metastatic cancer in the upcoming years. The initiative is funded by the Eurostars-2 joint programme with co-funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Image credit: Josh Appel

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