On February 28, 2020 Convert Pharmaceuticals reported that it has been granted a total of EUR 13,6 million in equity and non-dilutive funding by investors Droia Oncology Ventures, Meusinvest and Spinventure, with non-dilutive support by the Walloon region and the European Eurostars program (Press release, Convert Pharmaceuticals, FEB 28, 2020, View Source [SID1234557574]). The funds will be used to prepare and conduct initial clinical studies with Convert’s lead anti-cancer drug, which may bring a novel approach to tackling certain aggressive and resistant tumors.
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Convert was co-founded by Droia, Prof. Dr. Philippe Lambin, Paul Tulcinsky, and Nicolas Geûens. The company’s lead drug candidate is designed to leverage tumor hypoxia, which occurs wherever tumor cells are deprived of oxygen. Tumor hypoxia promotes the development of aggressive tumors, which are resistant to chemo-, immuno-, and radiotherapy, and is strongly associated with poor clinical outcome. Convert’s lead drug is a Hypoxia-Activated Prodrug (HAP), designed as a nitroaromatic analogue with highly optimized drug-like properties. Successful in vitro and in vivo proof of concept studies have confirmed the outstanding anti-cancer potential of this HAP.
The candidate drug was licensed from one of the world’s most renowned research labs in the field of hypoxia-selective prodrugs: the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Prof. Dr. Philippe Lambin (Chief Scientific Advisor of Convert, professor at Maastricht University) comments: "Convert was founded to develop next-generation tumor-microenvironment modulated prodrugs. These prodrugs are inactive by themselves, but transform into potent anti-cancer agents when entering tumors. Many tumors contain areas that are insufficiently oxygenated. These areas are hard to treat with radio-, chemo- and immunotherapies. However, Convert’s lead drug becomes active in these areas and eradicates them very efficiently."
Janwillem Naesens (Managing Partner at Droia, acting CEO of Convert) adds: "Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the investors, the Walloon region and the European Union, Convert now has the critical resources to achieve its clinical development goals. We are currently completing the team, which is already working hard on bringing the first drug to cancer patients. In the meantime we are evaluating other drug candidates, based on Convert’s innovative insights in both the tumor-microenvironment and specific biomarkers as well as in the chemical design of prodrugs. This investment fits perfectly within the core of Droia’s investment strategy, combining original science, professional translation and a long-term company building approach."
Marc Foidart (Deputy General Manager of Meusinvest) concludes: "We are delighted to welcome Convert Pharmaceuticals in our ecosystem. Backed by a professional and very selective VC such as Droia, relying on outstanding science, and located close to the new Integrated Oncological Centre of the University Hospital, Convert really has all the ingredients to achieve its scientific, clinical and economic huge potential."