BerGenBio has raised NOK 187.5M (€19M) to continue the clinical development of a drug with a brand new enzyme target for cancer combination therapies with checkpoint inhibitors.
BerGenBio, a Norwegian biotech, has raised funding in a private placement to continue developing its first-in-class treatment for cancer for use with checkpoint inhibitors. The technology inhibits the action of an enzyme, AXL kinase, that plays a role in normal cell growth and survival and is overexpressed in several forms of cancer.
According to BerGenBio, its lead candidate, bemcentinib, is the only drug in clinical development to target AXL kinase. The drug is currently being tested in four Phase II trials. In combination with the checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda, bemcentenib is being tested in breast cancer and lung cancer. BerGenBio is also testing its drug alongside the cancer drug Tarceva in lung cancer and as a single agent in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Checkpoint inhibitors could provide a powerful means of treating cancers, however, the approach has been a mixed blessing since it is not effective in all patients. Because of this, companies are trying to develop checkpoint inhibitors in combination with other therapies. For example, Boehringer Ingelheim has offered up to €1.1Bn to OSE Immunotherapeutics to collaborate in the development of the French biotech’s checkpoint inhibitor for solid tumors.
In addition to the cancers targeted by BerGenBio, research indicates the AXL kinase could be an effective target for treating other cancers, including gastric, colorectal and prostate, in addition to lung, breast and AML cancers.
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