NBE-Therapeutics AG is a private Swiss Biotechnology company with offices and laboratories at Technology Park Basel, Switzerland. The company was founded in 2012 with the focus to develop next-generation antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) for improved targeted cancer therapies. Antibody drug conjugates combine the principle of targeting of cancer cells with antibodies and chemotherapy. For this, ADCs contain highly potent small-molecular weight cytotoxic compounds coupled to an antibody specific for a given cancer type. Traditionally, the toxic payloads conjugated to an antibody in ADCs are so potent that they cannot be used as stand-alone chemotherapeutic drugs. This way, ADCs deliver their highly potent toxic payloads specifically to cancer cells with significantly less side-effects, because the ADC is designed to only release its toxic payload, once it has bound to the targeted cancer cells.
It is the vision of the NBE-Therapeutics’s team, led by Dr. Ulf Grawunder as CEO and Dr. Roger R. Beerli as CSO, to develop a portfolio of ADC product candidates to the point of clinical validation in cancer patients.
During the first three years since incorporation, NBE-Therapeutics has raised about € 11 mio EUR funding from investors and granting organizations to support the internal development efforts, but also to foster research collaborations with top-tier academic institutions, like the Scripps Research Institute, U.S., ETH-Zürich, the University of Erlangen, Germany, or the University of Basel, Switzerland. The consortium of investors is led by the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF), Germany.
The company is growing at significant rate and currently employs a staff of 12 including 6 PhDs. In order to develop best-in-class ADC producs, NBE-Therapeutics leverages two proprietary technologies, the Transpo-mAbTM and SMAC-technologiesTM developed in house. The first platform, Transpo-mAb technologyTM (WO2014013026) is a powerful mammalian cell-based antibody display and screening platform allowing the discovery and engineering of humanized and fully human antibodies that are the basis for the company’s ADCs specific for novel cancer targets. The second platform, SMAC-technologyTM (WO2014140317) allows the generation of homogeneous next generation ADCs using site-specific, enzymatic conjugation of highly potent cellular toxins to antibodies by so-called sortase enzymes (SMAC= sortase mediated antibody conjugation).
ADCs generated by NBE-Therapeutics SMACtechnologyTM are expected to result in ADCs with higher efficacy and safety, due to the sitespecific conjugation allowing manufacturing of entirely homogeneous ADCs. Furthermore, because sortase enzymes represent an entire class of enzymes with individual members displaying different substrate specificity, NBE-Therapeutics is uniquely positioned to generate dual payload charged ADCs by conjugating two different toxic payloads site-specifically to one antibody by using different sortase enzymes with orthogonal substrate specificity. These dual payload charged ADCs are expected to be able to target different populations of cancer cells in a given tumor mass, e.g. relatively quiescent cancer stem cells as well as strongly proliferating cancer cells. This is expected to further increase the efficacy and specificity by which SMAC-technologyTM conjugated ADCs are able to eradicate different types of cancer cells in heterogeneous tumors.
NBE-Therapeutics is actively developing nextgeneration ADCs against four different targets, that address cancers of high unmet medical need, like lung and colon cancer, or pancreatic adenocarcinoma. NBE-Therapeutics plans to enter first ADC product candidates into INDenabling preclinical development in 2016, with the objective to start clinical trials in cancer patients with one or two ADC lead candidates in 2018.