OncoQR received the funding from the FFG (the Austrian Research Promotion Agency) and ZIT (the Vienna Business Agency) for the further development of its reversible cancer immunotherapy treatments. The young Austrian company aims to develop, produce and market vaccine-like biological drugs (immunotherapies) against oncological diseases and has already registered remarkable progress in the development of a treatment for pancreatic cancer.
From the total funding amount, 650 thousand euros come from the FFG through the HighTech Start-up initiative, while 150 thousand euros have been awarded by the ZIT through the 2014 Life Science Call. Both grants support innovative high-tech projects that are likely to have a sustainable economic and commercial impact.
OncoQR’s co-founders, biotechnologist Christof Langer and immunologist Geert C. Mudde, first co-founded S-TARget Therapeutics in 2010. It’s patented S-TIR Technology Platform, which originally focussed on vaccines to cure and prevent severe, allergic diseases, is based upon research first developed by Mudde while working at Novartis in the early 1990’s. This technology was already outlicensed to Allergopharma, a 100% Merck daughter. With the addition of molecular biologist and biotechnologist Jorge Sepulveda as the Scientific Managing Director, OncoQR was founded in 2013 with a focus on applying the S-TIR Technology Platform to oncology.
The significance of OncoQR’s immunotherapy innovation
World’s leading pancreatic clinicians and doctors who were profoundly impressed with the results.Cofounder Langer about their OQR100 treatment clinical primate studies
Cancer is a group of diseases that involve abnormal cell growth. Other illnesses elicit an immune reaction, but cancer cells fail to alert the body’s natural defence mechanisms. In consequence, immunotherapies to treat cancer aim to kickstart the body’s immune reaction in order to destroy the cancerous cells. Unfortunately, these immunotherapies run the risk of triggering immune reactions that are either too weak (and thus ineffective) or too severe (and life threatening). However, the S-TIR Platform Technology aims to resolve this issue by controlling autoimmune reactions, regulating how many antibodies are triggered and targeting them precisely. In contrast to current immunotherapies with artificial, monoclonal antybodies, OncoQR’s approach leads to a natural, polyclonal antibody response, which is much more efficacious.
How it works
The patented S-TIR technology is based on a modular approach. The first module, the so-called “warhead,” uses biochemical systems to „reprogram“ the immune system, bypassing the usual stop signals. The second module, the disease specific “immunogen”, helps the immune system target the tumorous cells (or the responsible growth hormone, in the case of e.g. pancreatic cancer). The immunogen isspecific to the type of disease being treated and targets the immune reaction to the correct cells.
Currently, OncoQR has two products underway. The OQR100, co-developed with TYG Oncology Ltd., is directed against gastrointestinal (pancreatic) cancer and is currently in the preclinical stage. Studies conducted thus far on non-human primates have registered virtually no side-effects. These OQR100 treatment clinical primate studies “have received favourable support from the world’s leading pancreatic clinicians and doctors who were profoundly impressed with the results,” disclosed Langer. A second treatment, called OQR200, is being developed to address breast cancer and is currently in the development stage.
The business case
The company plans to finance itself by licensing the world-wide exclusive rights to its products. Langer estimates that three licensing deals would give the company the financial freedom to research and bring OncoQR’s own further products to market.
Once these two additional treatments have been validated, the young company can confidently use the S-TIR technology to target virtually any type of oncologic, autoimmune- and infectious disease. OQR100 is heading for dose-finding studies in the next few months, while OQR200 is being prepared for clinical studies on non-human primates for early 2015.
To finance the next stages’ clinical studies, the currently founder-owned startup is planning a round of investment and is already in discussions with both VCs and pharma companies.