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5 May, 2021 - 11:30 By Tony Quested

Alchemab and AstraZeneca collaborate on prostate cancer research

Cambridge biotech startup Alchemab and neighbouring Big Biotech AstraZeneca have joined forces to accelerate nextgen prostate cancer research.

Alchemab, which has just raised $82 million Series A cash – one of Europe’s largest such rounds in recent years – is developing novel therapeutics for patients with hard-to-treat diseases by harnessing the power of naturally protective antibodies. It will collaborate with AstraZeneca on a proof-of-concept study to build understanding of the fundamental biology of prostate cancer. 

Alchemab’s novel drug discovery platform will be used as a diagnostic tool through the identification of disease biomarkers with potential to inform the development of novel antibody-based therapeutics.

Using cutting-edge advanced analytics and functional validation methods, Alchemab will sequence and explore antibody repertoires within patient samples from a clinical trial of a novel immuno-oncology agent in the AstraZeneca pipeline. 

The objective is to define antibody signatures for predicting how well a patient may respond to therapy, and to improve the understanding of the underlying immune profile of prostate cancer patients. 

Ultimately, the collaboration aims to identify novel, disease-relevant antibodies which may yield therapeutic insights into currently unknown disease biology. This could permit direct biotherapeutic development of a protective antibody or enable drug discovery against a novel disease target.

By classifying patients as responders or non-responders, Alchemab may also be able to identify antibody sequence patterns that could function as biomarkers for early detection and patient stratification, enabling researchers to predict and monitor responses to novel immuno-oncology agents.

Dr Jane Osbourn, CSO at Alchemab, said: “Our collaboration with AstraZeneca is a great opportunity to showcase Alchemab’s novel technology, not only as a drug discovery engine for new therapeutics but also as a potential diagnostic tool. 

“By working together to understand each patient’s natural immunity, we anticipate that we will be able to build our understanding of prostate cancer disease biology and potentially deliver novel therapeutic options for patients with critical unmet need. 

“We look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration and to apply our technology in future collaborations for other hard-to-treat diseases.”

Prostate cancer is the second most frequent cancer diagnosis made in men, and the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. It accounts for 1.4 million, or 7.3 per cent of all new cancer cases every year globally.

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