German BioTech startup Tacalyx is working to improve cancer treatments by developing antibodies to fight tumour-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs)
This is where the first half of the companies name comes from and ‘lyx’ from the “Glycocalyx,” the glycan-containing surface layer that covers cells. As such, Tacalyx aims to discover and develop treatments to target cancer-specific carbohydrate antigens on the surface of metastatic malignant tumours.
In a research study by the University of Washington, tumours with a high level of certain types of TACAs demonstrated greater metastasis and progression than those with low levels—which is reflected in decreased patient survival rate among various types of cancer.
As tumour markers, TACAs are highly innovative targets for anticancer therapies because of their specific expression on a wide variety of tumour cells. TACAs also drive a tumour’s virulence—how severe one’s cancer could be—meaning that masking or down-regulating them would compromise the functions of the tumour. However, TACAs have low immunogenicity—as such, creating antibodies to fight them is a challenging task.
According to the company, no satisfactory treatments currently exist in this area.
Based in Berlin, Germany, Tacalyx is a spin-off of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Colloids and Interfaces. It was based on the research by two of its scientific co-founders: Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger, a leading expert in glycosciences; and Dr Oren Moscovitz, an expert in glycobiology and glyco-oncology.
The duo’s research discoveries in the fields of tumour glycoscience and glycan targeting antibody generation led to to the company’s proprietary platform with financial support from Max-Planck-Society.
The company’s discovery platform will allow the identification and validation of TACAs and the generation of leads against these difficult targets to implement new immunotherapies to fight cancer more efficiently.
In September 2019, the BioTech startup raised €7 million ($7.7 million) in seed funding to further its discovery and development platform, start its pre-clinical development and progress obtained leads towards candidate selection.
“This financing, by highly experienced life sciences and technology investors, represents an important validation of our platform and development strategy and will help to position us at the forefront of this breakthrough approach,” Dr Peter Sondermann, CEO of Tacalyx, said in a statement.
“Besides establishing the company and our discovery platform for lead generation, we will use these funds to explore relevant TACA biology in detail. We will also further assess and characterize our first lead antibodies and their functional role in treating cancer. Following which in vivo pharmacology studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of our lead antibodies will provide additional functional validation to progress at least one lead molecule to clinical development.”
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