Austrian startup OncoOne has closed its first round of venture capital funding after raising €13M to investigate a new treatment target against solid tumor cancers.
Investment in the Series A funding included public grants from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency and the promotional bank of the Austrian federal government, the Austria Wirtschaftsservice Gesellschaft, along with contributions from two family offices.
OncoOne will use the financing to develop drugs targeting an oxidized version of an immune protein called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (oxMIF), which is only present in diseased tissue.
The startup will initially focus on the high-need areas of colorectal, pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer, with the goal of rapidly entering clinical trials. As oxMIF is not indication-specific, the company has the potential to expand its pipeline to other cancers later down the line.
“OncoOne sets itself apart from the otherwise crowded oncology space by being the only biotech to investigate the unrecognized target, oxMIF,” OncoOne CEO Randolf Kerschbaumer told me.
“Its apparent exclusive presence in afflicted tissue and high tumor specificity separate oxMIF from other targets typically used to battle cancer.”
Unlike oxMIF’s non-oxidized form, MIF — which is present in both healthy and unhealthy tissue — oxMIF appears to be present only in diseased tissue rendering it a useful candidate for direct targeting in cancer treatments.
A 2016 study published by members of OncoOne’s team found that anti-oxMIF antibodies could make cancer cells in the lab more vulnerable to chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin. In addition, a 2015 study from the same team suggested that blocking oxMIF could also treat inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease.
According to Kerschbaumer, the company expects to develop first-in-class cancer drugs with this target, and then license them out to big pharma companies as a business model.
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