The cancer specialist receives 60 million euros from investors

The founders of Tubulis, Dominik Schumacher (left) and Jonas Helma-Smets

PhD physicists founded their company three years ago.

(Photo: Lisa Eiden Photography)

Frankfurt Munich Tubulis cancer specialist will receive 60 million euros to further develop his therapeutic approach. The start-up announced on Tuesday that it had successfully closed a B-Series funding round, led by European biosciences research firm Andera Partners.

Tubulis develops so-called antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) that can target tumors. Antibodies ensure that the chemotherapeutic agent, i.e. the cellular toxin, is delivered directly to the tumor. In this way, the cancer cells must be destroyed in a targeted way, which is ideally accompanied by fewer side effects than the chemotherapy that works throughout the body.

Tubulis started in 2019 as a spin-off from the Leibniz Research Institute in Berlin and the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (LMU). Chemist Dominik Schumacher (34) and biologist Jonas Helma-Smets (40) met through a research collaboration and founded the company three years ago.

Today Schumacher is the head of Tubulis, Helma-Smets is the head of science. Scientific co-founders include Professor Christian Hackenberger of the Leibniz Research Institute and Professor Heinrich Leonhardt of the LMU.

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Tubulis has two proprietary technologies based on the scientific results of research teams. According to the company, these make it possible, among other things, to produce highly stable ADCs because the chemotherapeutic agents and antibodies are, so to speak, glued together.

In addition, it ensures that the antibodies deliver the cellular toxin better to the tumor and not elsewhere in the body, where it causes unwanted side effects. Both areas have so far been major challenges in the development of antibody-drug conjugates.

Tubulis currently has three candidate drugs in the preclinical phase. One of them is directed against the lymphomas, ie the cancer of the lymph nodes, the other two against the so-called solid tumors, ie the formation of new tissue. The company has not yet announced the exact indications.

With the money from the funding round, the candidate drugs will be taken to the next stage of development and tested in humans. The company, which currently has 22 employees, also wants to bring the necessary know-how to the company and hire new employees.

Large pharmaceutical companies are also working on the technology

ADCs are currently among the most promising research fields in the fight against cancer. Many pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies around the world are doing research in this area. One of the pioneers is the American biotechnology company Seagen, which has already developed a number of ADCs.

But large pharmaceutical companies such as Roche and Daiichi Sankyo are also active here. Roche has been marketing ADC Kadzyla since 2014 and Daichi Sankyo Enhertu since 2021. Both are targeting advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

The topic is also very popular with biotechnology investors, something that is not only seen from the example of Tubulis. Last December, the German biotechnology company Emergence Therapeutics from Essen raised a total of 87 million euros in the largest German funding for the first round of biotechnology in 2021.

Tubulis managed to secure € 10.7 million in a first round of financing in mid-2020. All investors since then, including BioMedPartners, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), Seventure Partners, Coparion, Bayern Kapital and Occident, are also in the new round. Hamburg biotechnology company Evotec and venture capital Fund + were also added.

For lead investor Andera Partners, the investment is another important step in expanding into German-speaking countries, where the company sees great potential, especially in the life sciences. Andera, based in Paris, has been investing in Germany since 2001 and also has a branch in Munich since last April.

More: These could be the biotechnologies of tomorrow – five German biotechnology hopes of investors

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