Startups, Venture

With radiotherapy en vogue, Belgian startup nabs nearly $42M in Series A funding

Interest in targeted radiation treatments was buoyed last month with Novartis’ $NVS $2.1 billion bet on Endocyte that put the spotlight on a decades-old class of drugs in the lucrative field of oncology. Belgian radiotherapy developer Camel-IDS has cashed in on the renewed enthusiasm with a €37 million (about $42 million) Series A round, led by V-Bio Ventures and Gimv.

The company, which was spun off Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and incorporated in 2014, develops novel radiopharmaceuticals using single domain antibody fragments derived from camelids — a family of mammals that includes camels and llamas — labeled with radioisotopes. In this class of drugs, the radioactive agent is taken up in the cancerous tumor and the radioactive toxins are specifically targeted to destroy the affected tissue, versus chemotherapy, which does not discriminate between mutated tissue and healthy cells.

This round of funding, which included the participation of Novo Seeds — the early-stage investment arm of Novo Holdings — and European VC HealthCap, will be used to shepherd Camel-IDS’ lead experimental drug, CAM-H2, into the clinic for certain breast cancer patients whose disease has metastasized to the brain. Breast cancer patients with tumors that overexpress the growth-promoting protein HER2 have a poor prognosis when the cancer progresses toward the brain, and Camel-IDS’ CAM-H2 is designed to irradiate brain lesions while sparing healthy tissue.

The global market for radiopharmaceuticals is expected to grow to $7.4 billion by 2024 from $5.1 billion last year, estimates Transparency Market Research.

Another Belgian biotech, Ablynx, has built its pipeline using camelid-derived single-domain antibody fragments. The promise of the company’s arsenal of drugs-in-development, including lead drug caplacizumab for ultra-rare blood clotting disorder acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (aTTP), caused a takeover scramble between Novo Holding’s Novo Nordisk $NVO and Sanofi $SNY, in which the latter emerged victorious with a $4.8 billion deal to swallow Ablynx this January.


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