Melbourne-based cancer biotech start-up Currus Biologics says it has completed a $10 million investment round that will be used to support the development of CAR-T cell therapies against solid tumours such as breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.
The Brandon Capital Partners-managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) led the $10 million investment round with co-investment from university commercialisation fund Uniseed.
The capital will support Currus Biologics’ development of its proprietary BEAT technology based on research from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, one of the world’s leading cancer research centres. This is the first investor-led spinout from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre research.
CAR-T therapies have been used for the treatment of severe, advanced blood-borne cancers, such as leukaemia and lymphoma. However, they have proven less useful at treating solid tumours, which make up 90 per cent of all cancers.
CAR-T cell therapy works by extracting a patient’s T-cells and genetically engineering these cells to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that can be used to specifically seek out and destroy cancer cells after infusion back into the patient.
Currus Biologics is combining its Bispecific Engagers of Antigen Presenting Cells and Tcells (BEAT) technology with CAR-T therapy to treat solid tumours.
“The BEAT is a bi-specific antibody, which recognises and simultaneously binds to the CAR-T cells as well as professional antigen-presenting cells, enabling their direct interaction. This in turn appropriately activates the T cells, enabling them to then seek out and destroy solid tumour cells.” said Professor Michael Kershaw, group leader and head of the Immune Innovation Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
“Our research findings in animal models indicate that one infusion of the treatment is expected to be effective in the treatment of solid tumours,” said Professor Kershaw. Professor Kershaw has led the BEAT research team along with Dr Clare Slaney, the senior research fellow at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Sam Cobb, the founding CEO of Currus Biologics, said, “Utilising CAR-T therapies to treat solid tumours with the BEAT technology could have similar impacts in this field, as we have seen for patients with liquid tumours. The potential of this technology for patients is immense and the commercial deals in this space also reflect the enormous size of this opportunity.”
Chairman of Currus Biologics and investment manager at Brandon Capital Partners, Dr Michael Bettess, said, “MRCF is delighted to be investing in Currus Biologics as the technology has the potential to treat some of the most prevalent cancers that affect so many people. Breast cancer and prostate cancer alone affected over 3.5 million people worldwide in 2020, many of whom could benefit from the technology Currus is developing.”
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre executive director of business ventures Associate Professor Dominic Wall said CAR-T therapies are proving effective in the fight against blood-borne cancers but could also be beneficial for solid tumours.
“CAR-T therapies are a focus area for us but in order to offer hope to millions more cancer patients, we need to identify how to effectively apply CAR-T therapies to solid cancers,” said Associate Professor Wall.