German Biotech startup Tacalyx secures $7.7 million in seed funding to create anti-TACA antibodies for cancer treatment
Tacalyx, a biotech oncology startup company focused on the discovery and development of Tumor Associated Carbohydrate Antigen (TACA) antibodies to treat cancer, has raised $7.7 million (€7 million) in seed funding to advance its discovery platform, progress obtained leads towards candidate selection and start its pre-clinical development.
Tacalyx is backed by leading European life sciences and technology investors Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF), Kurma Partners, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), coparion, Creathor Ventures and Idinvest Partners.
Founded by a highly experienced team with a track record of successful drug development in multiple companies including Glycart, SuppreMol, Baxalta, Vaxxilon, GlyXera, and GlycoUniverse, the Berlin, Germany-based Tacalyx is a spin-off of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Colloids and Interfaces. Tacalyx develops therapeutics targeting cancer-specific carbohydrate antigens on the surface of metastatic malignant tumors where no satisfactory treatments exist.The name Tacalyx is derived from TACA (Tumor Associated Carbohydrate Antigen) and ‘lyx’ from the term Glycocalyx, the glycan-containing layer covering cells.
Cancer cells differ from normal cells by displaying aberrant carbohydrate structures on their surfaces promoting metastasis, angiogenesis or suppression of the immune system. TACAs result from the aberrant glycosylation that is seen with transformation to a tumor cell and represent attractive targets for cancer treatment since they are displayed with high cancer specificity and enhance tumor virulence via the mentioned diverse mechanisms.
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.
Tacalyx secured access to licenses and the know-how from Max-Planck-Innovation GmbH to the underlying technology and related discoveries made by its scientific co-founders, Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger, Director at the MPI for Colloids and Interfaces, and world leading expert in glycosciences, and Dr. Oren Moscovitz, Group leader at the MPI for Colloids and Interfaces and an expert in glyco-biology and glyco-oncology. Seeberger’s and Moscovitz’s scientific discoveries in the fields of tumor glycoscience and glycan targeting antibody generation gave rise to Tacalyx’s proprietary platform with supplementary financial support from technology transfer funds of Max-Planck-Society.
Commenting on the funding, Dr. Peter Sondermann, CEO of Tacalyx, said: “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. 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.”
Tacalyx is a private 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.