Berlin-based biotech startup Tacalyx, which develops novel anti-TACA (Tumor Associated Carbohydrate Antigens) cancer therapies, has just secured €7 million in a seed funding round.
The round comes from a syndicate of European life science and technology investors, co-led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and Kurma Partners and joined by Idinvest Partners, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), coparion and Creathor Ventures.
Tacalyx is an oncology company focused on the discovery and development of Tumor Associated Carbohydrate Antigen (TACA) antibodies to treat cancer. TACAs are formed during malignant transformation in a microevolutionary process. The expression of TACAs is elevated in many cancer cell types which makes TACAs attractive potential targets for cancer treatment by harnessing and directing the natural immune response. Tacalyx is developing its proprietary technology platform to exploit TACAs as novel targets for cancer therapy.
A spin-out of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Colloids and Interfaces, Tacalyx will use the proceeds to advance its discovery platform, progress obtained leads towards candidate selection and start its pre-clinical development.
As tumor markers, TACAs are considered highly innovative targets for anticancer therapies due to their specific expression on a wider variety of tumor cells. At the same time TACAs drive tumor virulence and therefore their masking and/or down-regulation would compromise the vital functions of the tumor cell. However, because of TACAs’ low immunogenicity, the generation of antibodies against them is a challenging task and requires innovative tools as well as extensive knowledge of the employed technology.
Tacalyx’s discovery platform will allow the identification and validation of TACAs followed by the generation of leads against these difficult targets, for the implementation of novel immunotherapies that trigger an anti-cancer response more efficiently. The company combines the unique ability to synthesize sufficient amounts of ultra-pure and highly complex TACA structures with its analysis and screening capabilities and its experience in successful generation of mAb leads against non-peptidic targets.
“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,” said Dr. Peter Sondermann, CEO of Tacalyx. “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.”
“We are pleased to have built this syndicate of leading investors to advance our mission of investing in ground-breaking therapeutics-focused biotechnology companies that drive innovation in biomedical research,” said Dr Detlev Mennerich, investment director at Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. “Anti-TACA antibody generation requires sophisticated knowledge to produce specific high-affinity binders to TACAs. Tacalyx’s synthetic TACA chemistry, its understanding of TACA biology and ability to generate and characterize anti-TACA antibodies against these low immunogenic targets will enable the Company to realize their significant potential as treatments for multiple cancers.”