Recolony to bring its immunotherapy into pre-clinical phase

After winning the third stage of the Venture Kick competition, Recolony took home CHF 150’000. The startup will use the funds to advance its cancer immunotherapy, aiming to regenerate the intestinal microbiota of cancer patients to trigger a potent anti-tumour immune response. The bacteria-based treatment promises to be more effective than current immunotherapies and could have preventative functions.

Recolony was co-founded by Ana Montalban-Arques (CEO), Philipp Busenhart (CBO), Eglė Katkevičiūtė (CSO) and Prof. Michael Scharl, Head of Research in the department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Hospital Zürich. The team is tackling Colorectal cancer (CRC), the third most prevalent cancer and the second leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. In advanced stages, five-year survival rates are below 15%.

The startup has identified specific bacteria that are less abundant in patients with CRC than in healthy individuals and has found that supplementing those bacteria can trigger an anti-tumour immune response in patients with CRC, melanoma, breast, and lung cancer. This allows the treatment of tumours with low immune-cell infiltration, representing a severe challenge in immunotherapies. The treatment consists of the oral intake of capsules filled with freeze-dried bacteria. It promises to be faster, easier, and more effective than current immunotherapies for cancer.

Additionally, they have identified the bacteria-derived molecule that is responsible for the immune-activating effect as well as the receptor that is targeted by that molecule. Since they could show that activation of this specific receptor is sufficient for provoking a solid anti-tumour immune effect, they will develop a small molecule targeting that receptor as a second approach. With the ultimate goal of combining the two approaches, Recolony will be able to achieve maximum target activation for acute treatment and restore the microbiome for a long-term effect that will decrease tumour recurrence in cancer patients.

The CHF 150,000 from Venture Kick will enable Reclony to advance its small molecule program towards the pre-clinical phase to provide cancer patients with a novel, more effective, safer therapeutic solution. In 2025, the biotech startup plans to perform the first-in-human clinical trials with CRC patients at the University Hospital of Zurich. With the success of their therapy Recolony will become a major player in the CRC therapeutics market, estimated to be worth USD 18.5 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 6.1% since 2018.

The additional capital comes after the startup received Innobooster financial support. The funds will also be used to grow the team by hiring new bioinformatics scientists to build the discovery platform. Interested candidates can apply to join the Recolony team.

(Press release/RAN)
Photo: Recolony’s co-founders: Dr. Eglė Katkevičiūtė (CSO), Dr. Ana Montalban-Arques (CEO), and Dr. Philipp Busenhart (CBO).