11. april 2023

BRIC/Finsen spinout Adcendo Aps moves forward towards clinical trials


Closing a Series A extension financing of an additional 31 million euro, in addition to an April 2021 financing round of 51 million euro, will allow BRIC/Finsen spinout Adcendo ApS to conduct broad phase 1 testing of their uPARAP ADC, starting by the end of 2024. The ADC technology is an emerging and targeted form of chemotherapy that can kill cancer cells from within, using a unique Trojan Horse strategy. The drug developed by the spin-out is positioned to target several subtypes of the rare cancer form of soft tissue sarcoma.

"A Dream Realized: 'As a basic researcher, it's a dream come true to see 20 years of research finally have a chance to help patients. A Phase 1 clinical study is a crucial milestone on the way to an approved drug.", Lars Engelholm, Group Leader at Finsen/BRIC, Co-Founder of Adcendo

“For us as researchers and founders, this is an enormous achievement. While very many projects in basic cancer research have the creation of novel therapy as the ultimate goal, only very few go all the way to clinical trials”, Niels Behrendt, Group Leader at Finsen/BRIC, Co-Founder of Adcendo

Adcendo was founded in 2017 by group leaders Niels Behrendt and Lars Engelholm, and post doc Christoffer Nielsen as a spinout from the University of Copenhagen (BRIC) and Rigshospitalet (Finsen Laboratory) together with bio entrepreneur Henrik Stage.  Their drug concept is based on the cell surface protein uPARAP, which was identified by Niels Behrendt and Lars Henning Engelholm in the late 1990s and which was subsequently found to be overexpressed in several types of cancer cells. In connection with a dedicated research project, the researchers obtained very promising proof-of-concept data for a technology that enabled them to hijack the receptor and force it to deliver drugs specifically to cancer cells following a Trojan Horse strategy. Following the initial series A financing, an international and seasoned team of biotech veterans were brought in to take the uPARAP ADC concept forward, and in December 2022, an optimal ADC molecule was finally selected as the candidate for clinical testing. The drug molecule will be developed for sarcoma - a rare type of cancer that develops in the connective tissues of the body, such as bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, or blood vessels.

Series A financing will ensure a broad clinical development programme

The series A extension financing of 31 million EUR, follows a 51 million EUR Series A financing in April 2021. The extension financing was led by Pontifax Venture Capital and existing investors Novo Holdings and Ysios Capital. Current investors RA Capital Management, HealthCap and Gilde Healthcare participated as well.

The extended financing will enable Adcendo to proceed to clinical development and to begin phase 1 clinical testing by the end of 2024, with a broader target patient population in scope. Due to the promising data generated during the preclinical phase, and a current lack of drugs that are effective towards sarcoma, Adcendo has been met with a significant interest from clinicians, and strong recommendation to broaden the initially envisioned scope.

 “Our collaboration with spin-out company Adcendo exemplifies the power of bridging academic research and industry to bring potentially life-changing discoveries from bench to bedside. It is particularly gratifying to see that the many years of basic research performed at the Finsen Laboratory and BRIC are maturing into something that may actually benefit cancer patients. We are looking very much forward to the clinical testing planned to start in 2024”, Bo Torben Porse, Professor, Head of Finsen Laboratory


How ADCs work

ADC stands for Antibody-Drug Conjugate, which is a type of targeted cancer therapy. ADC drugs are composed of three parts: an antibody, a linker, and a cell-killing (cytotoxic) drug.

The antibody is designed to specifically target and bind to a protein found on the surface of cancer cells, while the cytotoxic drug is designed to kill the cancer cells once it enters them. The linker is what connects the antibody and the cytotoxic drug together.

When the ADC drug is given to a patient, the antibody binds to the cancer cells and the entire ADC is taken up by the cell. Once inside the cancer cell, the linker is cleaved, releasing and activating the cytotoxic drug inside the cell. This allows the drug to specifically target and kill cancer cells, while minimizing damage to healthy cells (insert figure)