Aglaia Therapeutics, a biotechnology startup developing promising new therapies that can overcome resistance to current targeted therapies in cancer patients, today announces the successful completion of a €4M ($4.7M) seed funding round. Advent France Biotechnology (AFB) led the round, with the participation of Crédit Mutuel Innovation and Pierre Fabre. AFB also acted as co-founder, with Alejo Chorny, current operating partner at AFB, now appointed chief operating officer (COO) of Aglaia Tx. Leading European cancer centers Institut Curie and Gustave Roussy participated in the creation of the company.
The proceeds of the funding will be used to prepare the preclinical development program required to identify the first candidate. Aglaia Tx aims to develop promising new oncology therapies with the goal of delivering best- and first- in class drugs that can restore sensitivity to current targeted therapies in cancer patients that became resistant to these treatments. The company established a pipeline of small molecules in oncology targeting the initiation of mRNA translation.
While targeted therapies have clearly improved cancer patient outcomes, global efficacy of these treatments decreases over time, with patients rapidly developing resistance to therapies. Moreover, even with therapies that lead to a complete response, small populations of cancer cells often survive treatments, driving cancer relapse, which remains one of the most challenging obstacles to effective treatments.
“Our goal is to dramatically improve the standard of care in cancer patients; by restoring sensitivity and avoiding resistance to current targeted therapies. We have assembled a strong team of drug developers, scientists and investors,” said Alejo Chorny, COO of Aglaia Therapeutics. “With this seed investment, Aglaia Therapeutics is extremely well positioned to advance its preclinical programs in the coming years and select its first innovative program.”
“Aglaia Tx is a good example of our entrepreneur-investor approach and we firmly believe that its work opens up the possibility of tackling relapses, one of the main unmet medical needs in cancer treatment today,” said Matthieu Coutet, managing partner at AFB. “We are thrilled to bring together two leading European cancer institutes, Gustave Roussy and Institut Curie; to collaborate on this unique startup creation aimed at overcoming resistance in oncology targeted therapies.”
A collaboration between Aglaia Therapeutics, Gustave Roussy, Institut Curie and the University of Strasbourg, for the validation of targets involved in certain types of cancer, will allow the startup to keep working with the research and clinical teams of Pr Caroline Robert, Dr Stéphan Vagner and Dr Laurent Desaubry.
Aglaia Tx is founded on the basis of years of collaborative scientific work performed by Pr Caroline Robert, head of the dermatology department at Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus (France), Dr Stéphan Vagner, head of the CNRS UMR3348 / Inserm U1278 Unit at Institut Curie (France) and Dr Laurent Desaubry, CNRS research director at the University of Strasbourg (France) who are co-founders of the startup.
While Dr Vagner had been studying mRNA translation for many years, Pr Robert quickly identified the potential medical applications of such a theme. This initial work has shown that many pathways of resistance to current targeted therapies in cancer patients converge on the activation of mRNA translation by the eIF4F complex. EIF4FA, an RNA helicase, is one of the three proteins that compose the eIF4F complex, essential for the cap-dependent translation initiation of many oncogenic proteins. The abnormal activity of this complex, observed in many cancers, leads to the synthesis of proteins involved in tumor growth and metastasis. In addition, the selective translation of cellular mRNAs, controlled by the eIF4F complex, also contributes to the resistance to cancer treatments such as targeted therapies and checkpoint inhibitors.
It is the identification of the importance of the mRNA translation regulation process in cancer progression and resistance to treatments that has led to the development of new therapies targeting this process in a cancer context.