Alderaan Biotechnology has raised an €18.5M Series A round to push its lead cancer immunotherapy drug to phase I.
The UK VC firm Medicxi and the returning French VC investor Advent France Biotechnology contributed to the round. Alderaan, whose name was inspired by a fictional planet in the Star Wars movies, will use part of the money to advance its lead cancer immunotherapy into phase I testing. The candidate is an antibody that depletes T regulatory cells, or Tregs, which help tumors to evade the immune system. Alderaan expects to begin a phase I trial by 2022.
Alderaan will use another portion of the money to fund the preclinical development of its second cancer immunotherapy candidate, an antibody designed to activate tumor-busting immune cells called natural killer cells.
Cancer immunotherapies have shown big potential for tackling many types of cancer. However, many cancer patients don’t benefit from immunotherapy, often because solid tumors can suppress immune cells in their local microenvironment. “You can have up to 30% of cancer patients that are responding to immunotherapy, but the majority of patients do not respond,” Arnaud Foussat, CEO of Alderaan, told me.
Alderaan aims to benefit more cancer patients with its lead antibody drug. This immunotherapy blocks a protein called CD25 that stimulates Tregs. Tregs are often found in the tumor microenvironment and suppress the immune system, so blocking CD25 could stop Tregs from putting the brakes on the immune system in cancer. With its second candidate drug, the company aims to stimulate natural killer cells and let them attack cancer cells in the normally immunosuppressive solid tumor microenvironment.
The game-changing potential of targeting Tregs in cancer immunotherapy makes them a popular focus. The French biotech HiFiBio is developing drugs that treat cancer by targeting Tregs. The UK company Tusk Therapeutics, which develops anti-CD25 antibodies designed to control Tregs, was recently snapped up by Roche in a deal worth up to €655M. According to Foussat, Alderaan is in discussions with big pharma companies, but has no plans for collaborations so far.
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