There is an urgent need for medical agents to treat metastatic tumors. In case of pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive types of cancer that is often detected late, 95% of the patients die within five years after the diagnosis. The KIT spinoff amcure develops tumor therapeutic agents that might reduce this mortality rate. For preclinical and clinical tests of the agents, amcure has now received a total of EUR 5 million from investors. This will allow for the further development of these substances in the next years.
amcure, one of the partners of which is KIT, now plans to use the funds acquired for the further development of candidate agents identified by the team of Dr. Veronique Orian-Rousseau, KIT, for the treatment of metastatic tumors. The candidate substances bind specifically to a certain so-called isoform of the surface molecule CD44 and, thus, specifically interfere with central signal paths of tumor growth, while other types of cells remain unaffected. New formation of blood vessels supplying the tumor (angiogenesis) and migration of cancer cells and their invasion into other organs (development of metastases) are inhibited. “Data from animal tests reveal that our molecules do not only stop the growth of primary tumors, but may also prevent metastasis development and cause the regression of existing metastases,” says Dr. Alexandra Matzke, Chief Scientific Officer of amcure. The clinical studies that are to start in the next years will show whether these positive effects will also occur in human patients without any side effects.
The target molecule of amcure’s development candidates, CD44v6, plays a significant role for many types of tumors. It was discovered in the 1990s by Professor Helmut Ponta and his team at KIT. CD44 and its isoforms are increasingly considered significant factors for the spreading and formation of metastases. Blocking the receptor CD44v6 might open up opportunities for a wide-ranging application in tumor therapy.
“If these observations will be confirmed by clinical trials with patients, amcure can lay the foundation for treating tumors much more effectively and with far fewer side effects,” emphasizes Dr. Harald Poth, Senior Investment Manager of LBBW Venture Capital.
The next development steps will be funded by a consortium headed by LBBW Venture Capital, with participations from KfW, MBG Mittelständische Beteiligungsgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg, S-Kap Beteiligungen Pforzheim, BioM AG as well as private investors. In addition, the company receives funding by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the special program Spinnovator managed by Ascenion GmbH. The funds are so-called series A funds provided by venture capital investors to support growth of the young KIT spinoff in the next years. Prior to and during the establishment of the company, amcure was financed by its partner KIT and the Helmholtz Association as well as from federal funds.
“The consortium around LBBW Venture consists of experienced investors having extensive networks. We are happy to have convinced them of our development approach so that now the next steps in the preclinical and clinical stages can be financed,” says Dr. Matthias Klaften, Chief Executive Officer of amcure.
About LBBW Venture Capital
The LBBW Venture Capital GmbH is a 100% subsidiary of the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg. Investments focus on life sciences and industrial technologies in southwest Germany. www.LBBW-venture.de
amcure GmbH is a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. It was established in 2012. The company develops peptide agents for the treatment of highly metastatic carcinomas. First development candidates are in the advanced preclinical development stage. In relevant proof-of-concept studies, they showed a high effectiveness for the treatment of various types of tumors, in particular pancreas cancer.
Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 24,400 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.