A spin-out company based on research by Cambridge University Professor Laura Itzhaki, has raised £3.4m of seed capital to develop a new class of cancer drugs.
PolyProx Therapeutics, a new biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of novel biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer, is based on over a decade of research and intellectual property from Professor Laura Itzhaki’s laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology.
The biotech company will develop a new class of drugs, called Polyproxin™ molecules, that are able to selectively target tumour cells and trigger the natural degradation machinery contained within the cell to arrest tumour growth.
Professor Laura Itzhaki, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, PolyProx Therapeutics, and member of the Cell and Molecular Biology Programme, commented: “We are thrilled to have closed the seed round, and this will enable us to grow the PolyProx team and further develop our technology over the next two years. Our platform, which harnesses the cell’s natural protein degradation pathways, should allow access to many hard-to-drug targets and enable screening of molecules against these targets more quickly than existing approaches. We are excited to continue the discovery process in our labs at the Babraham Research Campus as we enter the next phase of our development.”
Polyproxin™ molecules target disease-causing proteins within tumour cells and trigger pathways to eliminate these proteins, thereby halting further growth of the tumour. This approach has the potential to address cancer targets that have proven untreatable using current technologies, important in major diseases such as lung, colorectal and pancreatic cancers. The technology behind this approach uses protein scaffolds to link a targeting entity at one end and a degradation trigger at the other, assembled in such a way as to allow access to the tumour cell and recyclable activity.
Christine Martin, Investment Manager at Cambridge Enterprise, said: “It is exciting to help spin out Professor Itzhaki’s outstanding and impactful research from the University. This is a great technology that is poised to address the elusive ‘difficult to drug’ section of the proteome to ultimately bring patient benefit.”
Sohaib Mir, Principal at Cambridge Innovation Capital, added: “PolyProx’s technology offers the potential to broaden the druggable proteome, thereby encompassing a range of highly validated therapeutic targets for which there are no existing drugs. This exciting new company, underpinned by world-class science and deep intellectual property, is characteristic of businesses emanating from the Cambridge ecosystem. We look forward to working with PolyProx’s experienced team as the company advances.”
Professor Itzhaki is joined at PolyProx Therapeutics by serial Cambridge biotech entrepreneurs Kevin Moulder as Chief Operating Officer and Andrew Sandham as Executive Chairman.
The financing, which was co-led by Cambridge Innovation Capital plc (CIC), RT Capital and Cambridge Enterprise, will support research operations to validate the technology across a range of tumour targets over the next two years.