At the start of the year, Argobio and Oncode have teamed up with Oncode Investigator Madelon Maurice (UMCU) and launched Laigo Bio, a new spin-off from the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) in the emerging field of targeted protein degradation. At the time, Laigo Bio secured seed financing from Oncode Bridge Fund and Argobio to further develop its proprietary pipeline of targeted immunotherapies using the SureTACs approach. Now, KWF has announced that this public-private collaboration will receive 1.2 million euros subsidy, from a total of 2.66 million euros invested in four innovative public-private partnership projects that contribute to a better life with and after cancer. The 4 collaborative projects are financed with the PPP allowance that Health~Holland makes available to KWF from the top sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH).
Targeted surface removal of transmembrane proteins in cancer
Proteins are the building blocks of all body cells. Cancer cells also need proteins to grow and survive. Many treatments are aimed at inhibiting cancer-specific proteins. Despite good results, there are also disadvantages to such inhibitory treatments, such as serious side effects and a limited duration of action. Moreover, not all proteins are sensitive to this approach. Researchers from UMCU and Oncode Institute have developed a new approach to allow these proteins of interest to be degraded by the cell’s own machinery instead of inhibiting them. This technology, known as SureTACs (Surface removal Targeting Chimeras), has shown promising results in the laboratory.
The aim of the research is to gain more insight into how SureTACs work. For instance, how do SureTACs break down cancer-specific proteins? Which SureTACs work best against which proteins? Which factors can impact the process of targeted degradation? The answers to these fundamental questions will be a starting point for Laigo Bio B.V. (a young start-up) to translate towards the development of new cancer therapies that may have a longer duration of action and fewer side effects.
“I am extremely excited to have received this support from KWF and Health~Holland, which will enable us to uncover key fundamental aspects of the mode of action of our newly discovered SureTACs technology. We will learn how we can exploit the cancer cell’s own machinery for targeted protein degradation, thereby blocking cancer growth. Furthermore, this project will strengthen the opportunities of my lab to translate fundamental discoveries into novel therapeutic applications.” says Madelon Maurice.
A public-private collaboration
With the PPP allowance from Health~Holland, KWF finances the academic parties within the public-private partnerships. The private partners themselves make a mix of in-kind or in-cash contribution based on the type of research being conducted. They also play an active role in the project. This has a lot of added value since companies are often indispensable for translating academic discoveries into concrete, applicable end-products with real impact on patient health.
“It was already a great honour for Argobio to be supporting the SureTAC programme with Madelon Maurice and her team at the UMCU. To be part of this collaborative project awarded by KWF and through Laigo Bio, our new start-up company that will ultimately translate her fundamental research into world-class products treating a wide range of patients with hard-to-treat cancers, is a massive extra bonus. It is fantastic that fundamental research can be supported by Health~Holland’s esteemed PPP allowance. The research work that the grant supports will be critical in elucidating the mechanism of action of this first-in-class technology. Without the additional help of Oncode Institute, none of this would have been possible so I personally would like to also thank them for their wide-ranging support” says Neill Moray Mackenzie of Argobio.