May 03, 2012
New Company to Focus on Developing Novel Immunotherapy Compounds for Cancer Treatment
May 3, 2012 - NEW YORK, NY – 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 Université 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 Benoît 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.
About iTeos Therapeutics SA
About the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
LICR is an international non-profit organization committed to improving the understanding and control of cancer through integrated laboratory and clinical discovery. Leveraging its worldwide network of investigators and the ability to sponsor and conduct its own clinical trials, the Institute is actively engaged in translating its discoveries into applications for patient benefit. Since its establishment in 1971, the Institute has expended more than $1.5 billion on cancer research. http://www.licr.org.
About the Université catholique de Louvain
Founded in 1425, one of Europe’s oldest universities, UCL has 27,289 students on six sites (Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruxelles (Woluwe and Saint-Gilles), Mons, Tournai, Charleroi). UCL educates almost one in every two French-speaking Belgians, and attracts 4,000 international students annually from around the globe (a number of programmes are given in English). UCL trains students in all disciplines, from beginner’s level through doctorate level and on to adult continuing education. Teaching is based on solid research and innovation. UCL is also one of the 22 European Universities to have received the ECTS label, a European Union recognition of the quality of its management of international exchanges. In the latest QS World University Rankings (2011), UCL was located at the 125th position, which makes it the first French speaking university of Belgium. http://www.uclouvain.be
About the de Duve Institute
Founded in 1974 by Nobel Prize Laureate Christian de Duve, the de Duve Institute is a renowned multidisciplinary biomedical research institute located on the Brussels campus of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), next to the Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc. It hosts several laboratories of the Faculty of Medicine of UCL, as well as the Brussels Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Research priorities at the de Duve Institute are based on three principles: (i) priority to fundamental research and to the freedom of the investigators, (ii) special attention to medical benefits potentially resulting from fundamental discoveries, and (iii) multidisciplinary collaboration within a critical mass of competences. For more information, please visit: http://www.deduveinstitute.be.
For further information, please contact:
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
+1 646 371 7394
+32 10 47 88 70