Amaroq Therapeutics ‘hits early milestones’ in cancer treatment

cancer cells

New Zealand biotech company Amaroq Therapeutics said it is progressing towards clinical trials following a promising initial development phase.

The company, a start-up spun out of the University of Otago, is focused on developing a new class of therapeutics that target long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) in cancer.

Sarah Diermeier, chief scientific officer and founder of Amaroq Therapeutics said the company is “much closer to clinical trials and delivering potentially life-changing treatment to patients with some of the most common cancers.”

The company is exploring the use of lncRNA molecules – often referred to as the ‘dark matter’ of the genome – as therapeutic targets and diagnostic markers in the treatment of cancer.

Long non-coding RNAs are a relatively recently discovered class of naturally-occurring molecules. They do not code for proteins but fulfil important regulatory functions in the cell. Amaroq said this could be exploited as a new therapeutic approach for multiple indications. 

Amaroq’s research team has discovered lncRNA molecules that are highly expressed in cancer cells, and once removed, cancer cell growth slows. The company is developing innovative therapeutics to target lncRNAs for cancer treatment. 

“This gives us the very real hope that lncRNA molecules could hold the key for treating many common forms of cancer such as breast, colorectal and liver cancer,” Diermeier said. 

“The new generation of RNA therapeutics we develop could be the breakthrough treatment the world has been waiting for to treat cancers – one of the world’s most deadly and debilitating diseases.”    

Led by Brandon Capital and supported by Otago Innovation Ltd, NZ Innovation Booster and Cure Kids Ventures, a total of NZ$14M (US$9M) has been invested in Amaroq Therapeutics to date.

Alongside the announcement, the company said it has also made some appointments to its scientific advisory board, with the addition of David L. Spector (chair), and Sherene Loi, Anna Pyle, and Henrik Ørum as board members.

Cover image: Shutterstock

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