Onchilles Pharma Advancing Tumor-Killing Drug Candidate to the Clinic
University of Chicago spinout Onchilles Pharma plans to initiate first-in-human clinical trials next year for its lead drug candidate – which has demonstrated broad, potent, and direct tumor-killing activity.
The biotech – cofounded by UChicago Associate Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research, Lev Becker, and LYZZ Capital Partner, Court Turner – presented new preclinical data on N17350 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting.
The preclinical data show that N17350 “broadly and selectively kills cancer cells, stimulates robust adaptive and innate immune responses, and does not induce resistance after repeated treatments.”
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N17350 is the first drug candidate out of the company’s platform, which is based on the breakthrough discovery of a novel mechanism of action inspired by the immunobiology of neutrophils.
What Becker observed is that neutrophils release a cancer-killing protein molecule called ELANE. This groundbreaking research was published in Cell and is the first to describe ELANE and its ability to activate cell death pathways specifically in cancer cells.
Following this discovery, Onchilles in 2021 closed a $7 million Series A funding round, which included a $500,000 investment from the University of Chicago’s Startup Investment Fund. The company also in 2017 participated in the George Shultz Innovation Fund.
Onchilles is now on the path to the clinic with plans to initiate first-in-human clinical trials next year in non-melanoma skin cancer, head and neck cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer patients.
“When we discovered the ELANE pathway, we saw the potential for a novel approach in immuno-oncology that combines broad activity in cancer cells but not in normal cells, robust immune system activation with immunological memory, and an inability to develop resistance,” said Becker, who also serves as on the board of Onchilles.
“N17350 was specifically designed to mobilize the ELANE-mediated cancer-killing pathway,” Becker explained, “and in addition to its potent single-agent activity, we believe it could enhance most immunotherapies, lead to global responses, and represent a new treatment modality in immuno-oncology.”