German startup jumps into the hot radiopharma space with a former Ipsen compound as lead program
Radiopharmaceuticals are continuing to become a hot topic in biopharma, with companies such as Sequoia, Novartis and Bristol Myers Squibb looking to get in on the action. A new startup launched Wednesday is looking to catch the wave, starting with a team and assets from Ipsen.
Berlin-based Ariceum Therapeutics has secured a €25 million ($26.7 million) Series A to further develop its lead asset and proprietary peptide derivative. Founded last year (and co-founded by EQT Life Sciences), Ariceum is headed by Manfred Rüdiger, a veteran of over 25 years in the biopharma world.
The company was formed around of a sale of assets from Ipsen, taking along the radiopharmaceutical candidate as well as a team of researchers, including the Ariceum’s new CMO, according to Rüdiger.
The asset in question, dubbed satoreotide, is a radiopharmaceutical drug and an antagonist of the somatostatin type 2 (SST2) receptor, which is overexpressed in many cancers, Rüdiger says. This includes certain diseases such as small cell lung cancer, high-grade neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and neuroblastoma. Satoreotide will be used as a “theranostic” for both the diagnosis and treatment of tumors expressing the SST2 receptor.
“The reason why the shareholders decided to enter into the radiopharmaceutical business is that this has become a very hot and very competitive area with some recent big successes,” Rüdiger said. “Everybody now realizes that small compounds, which you can administer by intravenous infusion, will find the tumor and also the metastases and the cancer cells throughout the body and kill them due to the radioactive payload.”
For the Series A round, three investors participated, including EQT, Sweden-based HealthCap and Swiss firm Pureos Bioventures. All three investors will contribute to Ariceum’s board.
Ariceum will use the funds for several different purposes, such as building up the headcount and general operations, with the goal of having three clinical trials running by next year. Rüdiger said the round’s runway is very short, and the company is anticipating pursuing another round of funding in the second half of 2022.
The company is positioned differently than others in this space, Rüdiger notes, in that execs are starting with a Phase II clinical asset, where safety in patients has already been determined. Satoreotide, while it’s in early clinical development, has been administered to more than 100 patients in earlier studies already.
He also said Ariceum has more of a head start because they are launching with an experienced team and investors familiar with the space. According to Rüdiger, these factors help the company apart from other startups in the field.
However, the company wants to carve its own path forward and not necessarily try to dominate everyone else.
“You have to find your sweet spot. Again, like in the car industry, you don’t only have BMW and Porsche. There are many, many others and they’re all successful,” he said. “So we have a platform technology on which we will build screening and developing new compounds. And I think we have some very good ideas on how to do this more efficiently than others.”