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Cancer Institute Spin-Off Lands New €3 Million Financing

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iTeos Therapeutics SA, a drug discovery company in Gosselies, Belgium, has secured €3 million ($3.94 million) in  series A financing, the first investment round after starting up. The company received its initial seed funding, totaling €6 million, in December 2011.

iTeos Therapeutics is a joint spin-off company of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in New York, but which operates globally, and the de Duve Institute at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium. These latest funds, an equity investment, is provided by Ludwig Institute, Hunza Ventures SCA, Life Sciences Research Partners, VIVES Louvain Technology Fund and several business angels. The initial €6 million was provided by a grant from the Belgian government.

The company focuses on development of immunomodulators for cancer therapy. Immunotherapy harnesses the immune system to destroy tumors and limit the risk of recurrences, and with fewer side effects. The success of cancer immunotherapy has been limited, however, by the ability of tumors to block the immune response, something known as immunosuppression.

iTeos’s research aims to develop small-molecule agents called immunomodulators that can increase the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, as well as take advantage of any spontaneous anti-tumor immune response. The company plans to reach a proof of concept in humans by completing a phase 1 and 2 clinical study for the first compounds and to submit an Investigational New Drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a second candidate in four years.

Ludwig and UCL scientists, led by Benoît Van den Eynde, recently highlighted the potential role of the enzyme tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) in immunotherapy. In research published in the 30 January 2012 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (paid subscription required), Dr. Van den Eynde’s team showed that blocking TDO with an inhibitor promotes tumor rejection in mice. This team was also responsible for recognizing the role that a similar enzyme, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), plays in tumor growth. TDO and IDO inhibitors are now in preclinical development at iTeos.

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