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13 July, 2020 - 11:10 By Tony Quested

Seeds of a revolution as Spirea plans to reshape cancer treatment

University of Cambridge spin-out Spirea Limited, is targeting a potential $7.5 billion market for the treatment of multiple cancers after raising crucial seed funding.

Meltwind and Start Codon have led the unspecified seed round for Spirea, which was founded to deliver the next generation of antibody drug conjugate  cancer therapeutics. 

The cash will progress the development of its ADC technology, which allows the delivery of more drug payload to tumour cells resulting in greater efficacy, tolerability and the ability to treat more cancer patients.

ADC drugs combine the cell killing activity of a cytotoxic drug payload with the targeting ability of an antibody. Despite strong interest in the field from pharmaceutical companies, only eight ADCs have successfully reached the market with many programmes stalled due to constraints with the format, toxic side-effects and limitations in the range of cancer patients who can be treated.

Spirea’s novel technology overcomes these issues by offering high drug-to-antibody ratios (DAR), drug stability and design flexibility which enable the development of differentiated ADCs with improved efficacy and safety. 

Because the technology allows more drug to be loaded onto the targeting antibody whilst maintaining drug stability, payloads can also be customised to the target, enabling flexibility in payload potencies, creative drug combinations and novel modes of action to serve a wider patient group. 

Recent in vitro proof-of-concept studies have demonstrated successful ADC manufacturing with an impressive DAR, no aggregation, good serum stability and high cell-killing activity on HER2 breast cancer cells.

Dr Myriam Ouberai, CEO of Spirea, said: “Incorporation of our technology into ADC products will accelerate and energise the important transition away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach currently being pursued in ADC development, resulting in novel products with a competitive and differentiated profile.

“The platform has the power to unlock the development of a new generation of powerful and well-tolerated drugs, which have been so far inaccessible to many cancer patients. 

“We are delighted to have attracted seed funding from Meltwind and Start Codon, and to be part of the first Start Codon incubator programme. This investment and support serve as endorsements of our approach and will allow us to optimise and validate our technology.”

Dr Jonathan Milner

Dr Jonathan Milner, executive director at Meltwind, said: “The market for ADCs is anticipated to reach $7.5 billion by 2025. Spirea’s transformative approach to addressing the common obstacles faced in ADC development has the potential to disrupt this field entirely, placing the company in a unique position to address a very significant market opportunity. This is an exciting time for Spirea and we are pleased to be supporting them.” 

Dr Jason Mellad, co-founder and CEO at Start Codon, added: “We are very excited to be working closely with Spirea to support their start-up journey. The company has already demonstrated promising in vitro results and we look forward to seeing the technology develop further.”

Spirea has previously received investment from Innovate UK, IP Group and Cambridge Enterprise and is supported by a number of successful, high-profile board members from the life sciences including Jane Dancer (former chief business officer at F-star), Gaynor Fryers (former vice-president of business development at AstraZeneca) and Christine Martin (head of life science investment at Cambridge Enterprise). 

Spirea benefits from being part of the healthcare business accelerator Start Codon and the Cambridge Judge Entrepreneurship Centre's Accelerator, Accelerate Cambridge.

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