The Belgium-based startup Oncurious NV is focused on developing innovative medicines for the treatment of pediatric brain tumors. Their first project, TB-403, is a therapeutic antibody being studied for the treatment of medulloblastoma. The drug candidate is based on research published in the journal Cell, highlighting for the first time that PIGF plays a vital role in the brain, and that its expression is required for the growth and spread of medulloblastoma. This relies on the binding of PIGF with the Neuropilin receptor on the tumor cell. Medulloblastoma cells induce the production of stromal PIGF and becomes a self-enforcing cycle. The research, conducted by Prof. Rakesh Jain from the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard and the team of Prof. Peter Carmeliet from VIB/KU Leuven, also illustrated that blocking PIGF signaling resulted in tumor regression and improved survival. TB-403 binds to PIGF, blocking its binding with Neuropilin, subsequently suppressing the tumor growth.
TB-403 has been granted orphan drug designation by the Eurpean Commission, and the drug candidate is currently in a Phase I/IIa clinical trial. Although still early, it has the opportunity to be the first targeted therapy for pediatric patients with medulloblastoma. It has the potential to improve outcomes and survival as a first-line treatment, as well as relapsed patients. While the current regimens often results in significant neurocognitive impairment, TB-403 could help avoid some of these detrimental effects and lead to better outcomes. This could translate into a long-lasting impact on these children’s lives, significantly improving their quality of lives and helping multiple families around the world. With PIGF and Neuropilin being overexpressed in other pediatric tumors, TB-403 may have additional applications, and the startup is looking at other scientifically novel therapeutics to extend their impact in pediatric oncology.
Oncurious NV was founded in 2015, with main shareholder being ThromboGenics NV, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing ophthalmic medicines, and VIB, a leading life sciences institute in Belgium. The startup has partnered with BioInvent International, a pharmaceutical company focused on discovery and development of antibody-based drugs against cancer, to co-develop TB-403.