Research results from the Finsen Laboratory lead to establishment of new biotech company – University of Copenhagen

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06 November 2017

Research results from the Finsen Laboratory lead to establishment of new biotech company

BIOTECH

A global patent agreement between the University of Copenhagen and the Capital Region has now led to the establishment of ADCendo, a biotech company that will develop new treatments for bone, connective tissue and brain cancer. The company is based on research results from the Finsen Laboratory which is part of BRIC and Rigshospitalet.

At the Finsen Laboratory at BRIC, the work of researchers Niels Behrendt, Lars Henning Engelholm and Christoffer Fagernæs Nielsen on ADCs (antibody-drug conjugates) in cancer treatment has shown such promising results for specific killing of cells of various types of cancer, that these results have now enabled the establishment of a spin-out biotech company, named ADCendo.

"In our trials in mice, treatment with our antibody-drug-conjugate eliminated malignant tumors in ten out of ten mice, and all mice survived, while all the mice in the control groups died due to the tumor burden. The mice in question were injected with human leukaemia cells, killing the untreated mice, but this treatment is expected to be effective against several other types of cancer as well. We are currently working on improved versions of our ADC to achieve this goal," says Niels Behrendt of the Finsen Laboratory.

The researchers have special focus on bone cancer, various types of sarcoma, and GBM, which is the most malignant type of brain tumor.

The company's CEO is Henrik Stage, partner in Ventac and also CFO of the Danish-Swedish biotech companies Synact Pharma and RhoVac, which were both listed on the Swedish stock exchange last year.

"With regard to my companies, the key aspect is that we have something that is relevant. We must have a drug candidate that, hopefully, can make a difference for patients," he says.

uPARAP: a key to cancer treatment

The results are based on many years of basic research at The Finsen Laboratory. The researchers have identified the receptor uPARAP as target for treatment with an ADC strategy. With an ADC, the antibody component actively binds to the uPARAP receptor, which is particularly apparent on cancer cells of the types described above. The ADC is then transported into the cell (internalised), where a toxin that has been bound to the antibody is released and activated, thereby killing the cancer cell. The company founders hope that their ADCs can be a completely new treatment form for these cancer types, for which there is an acute need for targeted new medicine.

The hope is that ADCendo's potential cancer drug will have an effect in cases where first-line treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy, have proved to be inadequate. "In our research, we have found several effective antibodies, and conjugated them with several types of effective toxins, to obtain ADCs with various functional properties. Now, we need to choose the final combination in our main candidate, so that we can get started on the next preclinical and clinical activities." Lars Engelholm elaborates.

The main discoveries ultimately leading to the formation of the company was published earlier this year in the journal Oncotarget (Nielsen et al, Oncotarget. 2017; 8:44605-44624).