Spirea raises £2.4M to develop antibody drug conjugates in cancer

cancer cells

Funding of £2.4 million ($2.9 million) has been secured by UK-based company, Spirea Limited, to advance a new generation of antibody drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics. 

The company will use the funds to initiate its pipeline of ADCs in the treatment of solid tumors where they say there is a high unmet need.

Targeted therapies, especially monoclonal antibodies – lab made proteins that are able to bind to certain targets in the body, like antigens on the surface of cancer cells – have reached an increasing importance in oncology. 

An ADC has the potential to selectively destroy cancer cells and is the result of attempts to make more selective, safer versions of traditional chemotherapy. They consist of toxic drugs attached by a so-called ‘linker’ molecule to an antibody that can guide them to tumor cells. 

This drug class has been researched for decades, but has only come into its own in the last few years.

Improving cancer treatments

Myriam Ouberai, chief executive officer at Spirea, said: “We welcome our new investors and thank our existing investors for their continuing confidence in Spirea. With our novel approach to building ADC therapeutics, we aim to radically improve the treatment options for patients with hard-to-treat cancers. 

“Having shown the flexibility and strength of our technology, we look forward to the next exciting stage in the development of Spirea’s ADC pipeline and to building significant strategic partnerships.”

The company said although the ADC concept has been exemplified with approved products, many ADC programs have failed to progress through clinical development because of dose-limiting toxicities, restricted efficacy, and limitations in the range of treatable cancers.  

Investor, Jonathan Milner, founder of Abcam and CEO of Meltwind Advisory said Spirea has overcome many of the hurdles commonly associated with ADC therapeutics. 

He said: “By developing a highly customisable platform where drug payloads and targets can be altered as needed, the company is revealing the true potential of ADCs as a cancer cell specific, highly effective therapeutic option for a wide range of cancers.”

Better efficacy and safety

Spirea’s technology allows more cytotoxic drug to be attached to the targeting antibody (a higher drug-to-antibody ratio), which means more drug is delivered to the cancer cell. 

This allows for the development of stable and tailored ADCs incorporating a variety of drug payloads at varying levels of potency and different modes-of-action. This, the company said, will result in cancer therapeutics with significantly better efficacy and safety profiles.

Spirea, a spin-out from the University of Cambridge, has previously received investment from IP Group, Cambridge Enterprise, Start Codon, Jonathan Milner, o2h Ventures and Syndicate Room.

There is a lot of work going into ADCs around the world though there are still some challenges to solve. ADCs can release their payload too early, or the drug can hit healthy tissue close to tumors. 

Just last month, German firm Tubilis raised €60 million ($62.4 million) for a Series B round to advance ADCs to clinical trials. 

Cover image: Shutterstock

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