Immunotherapy has emerged as a promising alternative to chemotherapy for cancer treatment, which has remained one of the leading causes of deaths. Experts project that the global cancer immunotherapy market size will reach USD 118 billion by the year 2026. The increasing approvals for new immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of various cancer types are adding considerable momentum to industry expansion. Aiming to take a market share of this growing field is the Swiss biotech startup CDR-Life.
CDR-Life was established in 2017 by a team whose mission was to transform immunotherapies through its T-cell engaging antibody platform. Their T Cell engagers have been designed to target MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) bound peptides with antibodies that have unparalleled affinity and specificity to peptide targets of interest. Combining its proprietary bi- and tri-specific T cell engager scaffold with excellent drug-like properties, CDR-Life is currently developing a pipeline of several pre-clinical highly cancer-targeted and drug-based immunotherapies against intracellular tumour antigens for the treatment of a variety of solid tumour malignancies.
Its lead candidate (CDR404) is targeted to address lung, bladder and oesophagal cancer. Results from the pre-clinical proof-of-concept – published at AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) – demonstrated that the antibody targeting a highly cancer-specific intracellular protein (MAGE-A4) is highly effective in recruiting the immune system to specifically eradicate tumour cells.
“Immunotherapies are incredibly potent treatments that, to the detriment of their effect, are not very cancer-specific. Inside the cancer cells, there is a reservoir of unique proteins that have so far been inaccessible to antibody therapies. We have developed a technology to effectively target these highly cancer-specific proteins and thereby reap the full potential of immunotherapies to eradicate tumours in a safe and effective manner”, said Christian Leisner, CEO of CDR-Life.
In addition, a therapeutic antibody fragment for treating a blinding retinal disease is currently being developed in collaboration with Pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim. A superior tri-specific BCMA therapy for treating multiple myeloma in the CDR pipeline is positioned for partnering. Further partnerships are under development.
Valuable support from Innosuisse
Thanks to the support offered by Innosuisse coaches, the CDR-Life team has been able to obtain valuable know-how to advance its skills and knowledge in areas such as business, legal, finance, among others. The startup also had the opportunity to participate in business conferences and trade fairs such as the Bio International conference to meet and engage with potential partners and investors.
Since participating in the program, the startup has made remarkable progress; it has grown the company to 27 employees and raised a total of CHF 11.5 million in equity capital in addition to significant non-dilutive funds following the partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim. With these achievements, the startup is now set for sustainable growth, as also shown by the receipt of the Innosuisse Certificate.
While CDR-Life embarks on the next journey, its team is currently raising a more extensive series A round to boost further growth and accelerate development. The funds will be used primarily to advance its lead candidate into the proof of concept clinical trials.