Brenus Pharma and InSphero bag €1.5M for next-generation cancer cell immunotherapy 

Immunotherapy 1

Brenus Pharma and InSphero AG have received a €1.5 million grant for the collaborative project “STC-1010: A First-in-Class Allogeneic Cell Vaccine Against Cancer,” which aims to use 3D cell culture to develop a novel cell immunotherapy for colorectal cancer. 

Funding was provided by the Eurostars fund, a support mechanism for small and medium-sized enterprises under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation support program, as well as by Bpifrance and InnoSuisse.

The project, coordinated by Brenus in collaboration with InSphero, launched in November, 2022, for a duration of 36 months. The collaboration aims to leverage the 3D model in the development of the STC-1010 drug candidate, based on Brenus’ technology platform. It will soon enter the clinical phase, targeting metastatic colorectal cancer.

This tool, using 3D cell culture, should make it possible to get closer to the clinical conditions of patients to select new drug candidates and thus accelerate and secure their development.

Paul Bravetti, CEO of Brenus Pharma, said: “Despite advances in therapy, a significant number of cancers remain resistant to treatment because the cancer cells can adapt and become invisible to the immune system, causing the patient to relapse. These cold tumors, which escape the immune cells and become for the most part insensitive to immunotherapies (only 5% of colorectal cancers are sensitive, for example), represent one of the greatest challenges for oncology research today. 

“Our STC platform enables the production of new generation immunotherapies that will give the patient’s immune system a step ahead by educating it to anticipate and fight against the resistance and escape mechanisms put in place by cancer cells. The ambition of this technology is to offer a solution to a large population of patients who are currently at an impasse with current treatments. We are delighted with the collaboration with InSphero, which is fully in line with our strategy to develop new drugs for cancer patients.”

Future of innovative therapies

Jan Lichtenberg, co-founder and CEO of InSphero added: “We are delighted to partner with Brenus Pharma on the Allogenix project. 3D cellular approaches will play an important role in the future of innovative therapies such as those delivered by the STC platform, ensuring accelerated and quality data assessment. InSphero’s revolutionary cryopreservation technology will also support complementary developments for the Brenus STC platform. 

“The resulting new medicines will provide solutions for patients suffering from tumors around the world. We look forward to this successful partnership, which would not have been possible without the trust and support of EUROSTARS.” 

About Brenus Pharma

Brenus Pharma is a French biotechnology company based in Lyon, developing a new generation of allogeneic cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of solid tumors. It has developed STC (stimulated tumor cells), a technology platform that enables the education of patients’ immune systems to anticipate and fight against the resistance mechanisms of tumor cells. 

Metastatic colorectal cancer will be the first indication targeted by STC1010. Metastatic colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in terms of epidemiology, with 2 million people diagnosed each year (and the second highest mortality rate). The first human trial will start in 2024 in Europe and the U.S.

About InSphero

InSphero provides industrial-grade, 3D-cell-based assay solutions and scaffold-free 3D organ-on-a-chip technology. InSphero supports pharmaceutical and biotechnology researchers in decision-making by rebuilding the human physiology in vitro. Its suite of 3D InSight human tissue platforms are used by major pharmaceutical companies worldwide to increase efficiency in drug discovery and safety testing. 

The company specializes in liver toxicology, metabolic diseases (e.g., T1 & T2 diabetes and NAFLD & NASH liver disease), and oncology (with a focus on immuno-oncology and PDX models). The scalable Akura technology underlying the company’s 3D InSight Discovery and Safety Platforms includes 96 and 384-well plate formats and the Akura Flow organ-on-a-chip system to drive innovation throughout all phases of drug development.

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