French bank and angel investors back ‘smart chemotherapy’ drug developer

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks

Related tags Chemotherapy Enzyme solid tumor Pancreatic cancer

Seekyo, a startup biotechnology company specializing in the development of ‘smart chemotherapy’ drugs that limit harmful side effects, has raised in excess of €650,000 (US$775K) in bridge funding.

Existing investors - business angel networks: WeLike, BAdGE and Synergence – participated in the financing exercise, with investment also coming from Bpifrance. This funding is in addition to the €800,000 ($954K) Seekyo raised in January 2020.

The company is also planning a Series A investment round. 

Seekyo says its therapies are selective, targeted, and inducible. Alongside antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), they represent another tool in helping practitioners combat solid tumors.

The French biotech is set to use the funding announced this week to accelerate development of its main drug candidate, SKY01, which targets solid tumors with high unmet medical needs such as pancreatic and triple-negative breast cancers; it will go towards boosting non-regulatory preclinical data on SKYO1, laying the groundwork for regulatory review, and preparing the documentation for the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM).

Chemotherapy is one of the main therapeutic option for cancer patients. However, most anticancer drugs used clinically - standard chemotherapy - lack any intrinsic selectivity, causing severe side effects as the result of their toxicity toward healthy tissues. Selectivity is key, according to the startup, to ensure the drugs only act on cancer cells, sparing all other tissues.  

The company has developed a completely new approach, a double targeting of the tumor microenvironment, which it calls smart chemotherapy.

Based on its patented molecular platform, SKY01 is safely transported throughout the body using therapeutic vectors, which detect the tumor and trigger anti-cancer activity, affecting only the malignant tissue. The drug is activated in the tumor microenvironment through highly targeted extracellular enzyme cutting. This increases effectiveness, whilst significantly reducing any adverse effects.

The initial academic research on its platform was carried out by Professor Sébastien Papot, from the University of Poitiers and French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); in 2014, he received the Pierre Fabre Award for Therapeutic Innovation for this work.

He co-founded Seekyo in 2018 with life science business development veteran, Oury Chetboun, who is now CEO. Papot is the biotech’s scientific director.

Results to date 

Chetboun said the company has seen highly encouraging, positive results obtained with SKY01, particularly in patient-derived xenograft (PDX) tests, whereby human tumor implanted in mice are tested against Standard of Care (SoC) treatment.  “Our preliminary PDX data shows a massive reduction of the pancreas tumor volume whereas the SoC shows limited if no volume reduction,”​ he told BioPharma-Reporter.

Seekyo is now deploying all steps necessary to be ready to initiate its preclinical regulatory program to generate the data requested by the ANSM to obtain clinical trial authorization. That includes ongoing liaison with oncologists, he added.

Data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) show that 19.3 million new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2020, with 10 million recorded deaths from cancer. Worldwide, one in five people develop cancer during their lifetime; one in eight men and one in 11 women die from the disease.

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