NEW YORK, NY, May 3, 2012 The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) announced today the launch of a private biotechnology enterprise, iTeos Therapeutics SA, to develop a novel pre-clinical pipeline of immunomodulators to stimulate the immune system's ability to attack cancer. Founded by LICR with the de Duve Institute at the Universit catholique de Louvain (UCL), iTeos is led by a team experienced in tumor immunology, immunotherapy, drug discovery, business development and entrepreneurship. iTeos is the ninth new company formed based on innovative cancer research discoveries licensed from LICR.
The field of cancer immunotherapy has come to the fore in the last two years with the approval of drugs and vaccines that harness the power of the immune system to treat cancer patients more safely, efficiently and effectively. However, therapeutic uses of these treatments can be limited as the tumors often develop mechanisms that enable them to escape the immune system. iTeos brings together world-class expertise in tumor immunology and immunotherapy, with a focus on developing small molecule immunomodulators to counteract cancer immunosuppression.
"Immunotherapy boosting the body's natural immune system to fight cancerous tumors is the next frontier in life-extending cancer treatment," said Benot Van den Eynde, M.D., Ph.D., Brussels Branch Director at LICR, UCL Professor and co-founder of iTeos. "Effective immunotherapy treatments enable the body's immune system to 're-engage' in destroying tumor cells, thereby potentially creating better patient outcomes with fewer side effects when compared to conventional cancer treatments."
"iTeos' mission is to translate pioneering scientific discovery into meaningful treatments for people living with cancer," said iTeos co-founder and CEO Michel Detheux, Ph.D. "We now know that combination treatments are likely to be more effective than single therapies in controlling and eventually eliminating cancer. iTeos will pursue this approach by combining existing vaccines with new immunodulatory compounds based on research that has just emerged from the Ludwig Institute."
iTeos' initial goals are to reach a proof of concept in humans by completing a Phase I/IIa study for the first compound program and to submit an Investigational New Drug application for a second candidate in four years.
Ludwig and UCL scientists, led by Dr. Van den Eynde, recently made the breakthrough discovery of the potential role of TDO in immunotherapy. TDO is a critical enzyme that is produced by a significant number of human tumors. In research published in the 30 January 2012 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Van den Eynde's team showed that blocking TDO with a novel inhibitor promotes tumor rejection in mice. This team was also responsible for recognizing the role that a similar enzyme, IDO, plays in tumor growth. TDO and IDO inhibitors are now in preclinical development at iTeos.
"Preclinical studies suggest that TDO inhibition may be beneficial in treating bladder, liver and melanoma skin cancers. Suppressing IDO may help to positively impact ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer treatment among others," said Dr. Detheux. "iTeos' focus is to bring these and other truly novel compounds to become part of the standard of care for cancer treatment."
"LICR has the expertise to conduct and administer its own early phase clinical trials as part of its technology development process," said Jonathan Skipper, Ph.D., Executive Director of Technology Development at LICR. "Spin-off companies, such as iTeos, have access to this infrastructure so that candidate therapeutics can be further tested. This allows LICR to continue to have input into the development of its discoveries and, more importantly, ensure promising new therapies will eventually reach patients."
Strong third-party endorsement is behind iTeos, including early funding by the Belgian Walloon Government. In fact, the creation of the spin-off was made possible by the grant from a Walloon FIRST spin-off mandate. Then, in December 2011, the Walloon Government awarded iTeos a research grant for $8M (6M). This support builds upon the progress of an earlier government program, the Biowin Pole of "Plan Marshall," aimed at the development of small molecule inhibitors.
|Contact: Rachel Steinhardt|
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research