ActiTrexx GmbH, a new biotech spin-off from the University Medical Center Mainz, Germany, has successfully closed its Series A financing. A consortium led by LBBW Venture Capital GmbH with participation from MediVentures GmbH, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and Investitions- und Strukturbank Rheinland-Pfalz (ISB) invested a total of € 3.5 million.
ActiTrexx develops ATreg, activated regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are stimulated using a proprietary process, to prevent rejection reactions in transplanted patients and excessive immune responses in autoimmune diseases. For this purpose, the regulatory T cells, natural guardian cells of the immune system, are activated outside the body via a patent-protected method and administered to patients intravenously. The team led by Prof. Andrea Tüttenberg and Dr. Helmut Jonuleit from the Department of Dermatology will use the funds raised to further optimize and clinically test the novel cell therapy.
The first clinical trials for the treatment of leukemia patients who have undergone stem cell transplantation and are at particularly high risk of a life-threatening transplant rejection, graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), is particularly high, are due to start as early as 2021.The trial will run in cooperation with the III. Medical Clinic of the University Medical Center Mainz. Preclinical data demonstrated that ATreg can significantly attenuate an already existing GvHD, and even prevent, largely, the development of the disease when given early after transplantation as a prophylactic treatment.
"Should these observations be confirmed in patients in the clinic, ATreg could be the cornerstone of a new, effective GvHD therapy with few side effects", said Prof. Tüttenberg, CEO of ActiTrexx.
In the past, regulatory T cells have been successfully used in academic studies for GvHD therapy.
"However, the approach used by ActiTrexx means a significant improvement of already existing protocols due to the unique activation of Tregs. The product ATreg shortens the manufacturing process for Treg-based cell therapies from weeks to hours and thus, the cell preparation can be administered within a very short time", said Dr. Jonuleit, CSO of ActiTrexx.
This is of particular benefit to patients with acute GvHD who are in urgent need of therapy.
"The development of therapeutics to suppress an undesired immune response in stem cell and organ transplantation as well as autoimmune diseases is currently the focus of various biotech companies worldwide. Therapies based on regulatory T cells have seen limited use due to the time and cost intensive processes involved. The ActiTrexx approach, based on many years of research, overcomes these limitations and will enable the widespread use of Tregs. The ATreg therapy is expected to enter clinical trials this year and could be available to the first patients in very few years’ time. We are pleased to be able to support ActiTrexx in this way", said Dr. Stefanie Wojciech, Investment Manager at LBBW VC.
"With the consortium around LBBW VC, we were able to gain experienced investors with a broad network. We are very happy that investors understand our development approach and that the next steps of the preclinical and clinical phases are securely financed", said Prof. Dr. Tüttenberg, CEO of ActiTrexx.
In addition, ActiTrexx will receive further funding for its successful company launch from the GO-Bio program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Previously, the founders of ActiTrexx had already raised € 4 million in 2016 as part of the GO-Bio start-up initiative.