Cancer Research Technology, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, and Paris-based venture capital firm, Kurma Life Sciences Partners (Kurma), have launched a spin-out company, BliNK Therapeutics Ltd, to generate monoclonal antibodies using a novel platform.
BliNK Therapeutics will develop the novel platform to generate therapeutic and diagnostic monoclonal antibodies towards clinically relevant targets. The technology is based on research carried out by the founding scientists Dr Facundo Batista, at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute in collaboration with Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo at the University of Oxford.
The platform technology provides a new way of activating the immune system’s B cells to produce antibodies in response to a specific antigen. Antigens are molecules that cause an immune response and can come from parasites, viruses, bacteria or even cancerous tumour cells, while B cells are the antibody-making factories in the immune system.
Kurma has committed up to £1.1m as seed financing, the investment to start-up the company, and up to £6.6m in further financing for BliNK Therapeutics.
Richard Treisman, director of Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, said: “We host 46 research groups carrying out life-saving research to understand the fundamental biology of cancer – an essential step in the development of new approaches to diagnose and treat the disease.
“This technology, developed by our scientists, will be vitally important in supporting our translational studies. Our scientists have played a critical role in contributing to the knowledge that has enabled cancer survival rates to double in the last 40 years and we hope that this important investment will quicken the pace of research to continue to save more lives from cancer.”
Keith Blundy, CEO of Cancer Research Technology, said: “This investment is great news. It’s immensely exciting that this venture with Kurma will enable us to translate fundamental research of B cell biology into a powerful platform for the generation of monoclonal antibodies.”
Parent B cells carry receptors; each receptor detects a single different antigen. Once a B cell receptor recognises its ‘partner’ antigen, the parent B cell ‘matures’ to produce specific antibodies in response – generating millions of ‘daughter’ B cells capable of producing large quantities of the same antibody.
The new platform technology allows generation of monoclonal antibodies directly from human B cells and towards specific antigens, even when the ‘parent’ B cells are rare or when the antigens are hard for B cells to detect.
Alain Maiore, managing partner, Kurma, said: “We’re delighted to have completed our first investment with CRT and Cancer Research UK – and excited by the enormous potential of this antibody platform which has been developed and will be implemented by an expert team of scientists.”
Dr Facundo Batista, BliNK’s founding scientist at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute, said: “My group carries out research to better understand how our immune system responds to infections and cancer and I am delighted our discoveries have attracted investment of fresh resources that will allow us to continue to expand and apply our knowledge in this incredibly important field of research.”
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Monoclonal antibodies are specific to one antigen – or foreign molecule. They are all identical because they are made by identical immune cells derived from one original parent cell.
Platform technology is a phrase to describe the technology which allows products to be developed.