Strategic Communication and Public Relations

DKFZ spin-off company has raised funds totaling €40 million

No. 41 | 29/09/2016 | by Koh

iOmx Therapeutics, a company that was founded by scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), develops new anticancer agents. The startup specializes in drugs that are intended to prevent cancer from escaping the body's immune system. Its concept appeals to a consortium of life science investors, which will now give €40 million to finance the young company's research.

Cancer often inhibits the body’s own immune system (here a dendritic cell surrounded by T cells)
© Markus Feuerer, Dieter Schröter, DKFZ

Many cancers escape the body's immune system by inhibiting immune cells. In this process, a particular contact between molecules on the surfaces of tumor cells and killer cells is crucial. A promising group of new anticancer drugs – called checkpoint inhibitors – blocks this contact, thereby rendering tumors vulnerable to immune attack.

Drugs of this class that are currently available are directed against just a few of these so-called "immune brakes". However, scientists assume that there are many more proteins on cancer cells that are capable of inhibiting the immune system.

When working at the DKFZ, tumor immunologists Khandelwal and Beckhove, who are cofounders of the biotech startup company iOmx Therapeutics AG, had developed a genetic high-throughput screening approach for identifying these immune-modulating proteins on individual tumors. Using their new method, they were able to identify several new factors that are involved in the contact between cancer cells and immune cells. Their potential to be used as targets for "next generation cancer immunotherapy treatments" is now being examined.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) has granted an exclusive license to iOmx Therapeutics for the complete technology involved in this screening method. Thus, the company is using a potent technology platform for its quest for targeted immunotherapy treatments.

"To receive such high funding is really a distinction for a young enterprise in the life science field," said Ruth Herzog, who is head of Technology Transfer at the DKFZ. "And we are also very pleased that intellectual property from the German Cancer Research Center is being so highly recognized by international investors."

Philipp Beckhove now works at Regensburg University, where he has a professorship for Interventional Immunology and serves as Executive Director of the Regensburg Center for Interventional Immunology (RCI). Nisit Khandelwal is Research Director at iOmx, where he supports the development of the company.

A picture for this press release is available for download at:
http://www.dkfz.de/de/presse/pressemitteilungen/2016/bilder/Dendritische_Zelle.jpg


Image source: Markus Feuerer, Dieter Schröter, DKFZ
Caption: Cancer often inhibits the body's own immune system (here a dendritic cell surrounded by T cells)

 

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. More than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to all questions on cancer.

Jointly with partners from the university hospitals, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and the Hopp Children's Tumour Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partner locations. NCT and DKTK sites combine excellent university medicine with the high-profile research of the DKFZ. They contribute to the endeavor of transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.

The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.

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