Ghent University and the booming Ghent biotech landscape welcome a brand new spin-off: Amalus Therapeutics is developing a new class of drugs that selectively target corrupt fibroblast cells. This innovative approach offers the potential to greatly improve the prospects of patients with cancer or fibrotic diseases.
The Belgian-Danish company is supported financially through BioInnovation Institute’s Venture Lab acceleration program, for which it was selected from many candidates. The BioInnovation Institute Foundation is an initiative supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation and also provides early-stage startups with access to labs and offices at the foundation’s facility in Copenhagen, as well as knowledge and a large network of investors.
The start-up will build on the work of Christian Stevens and Bart Roman, two researchers from Ghent University & Cancer Research Institute Ghent (CRIG). Christian Stevens is Professor of Bio-Organic Chemistry and CEO of the company: “Fibroblast cells play a central, negative role in difficult-to-treat cancers and fibrosis. In cancer, for example, they build a shield around the tumor and turn it into a fortress that is difficult to conquer. As a result, the immune system and current therapies cannot fight the tumor properly. Fibroblasts also support the tumor in other ways: they stimulate growth and metastasis, and reprogram the immune system so that it tolerates the tumor.”
Bart Roman (CSO) adds: “Everyone regards the elimination of these ‘corrupt’ fibroblasts as promising, but ‘normal’ fibroblasts are also present in our body. They perform vital functions and are difficult to distinguish from their malicious counterparts. We are the only ones who can selectively ‘deradicalize’ the ‘corrupt’ fibroblasts. All other fibroblast inhibitors also disrupt normal fibroblasts. They are not useful because they cause serious side effects and do not work sufficiently at lower doses. In animal models we see that our products are well tolerated, normalize the environment around the tumor, strongly inhibit metastases and activate the immune system.”
Amalus Therapeutics is thus tapping into an interesting and current clinical avenue for difficult-to-treat tumors and fibrotic disorders.
Our products are effective in themselves, but can also boost the effect of standard therapies in oncology. Such products are in high demand because they provide a better outcome for the patient, while doctors can build on a trusted treatment strategy.”
Dominic De Groote (CBO)
The young biotech company is already in the international spotlight: Amalus Therapeutics was recently nominated for the ‘One-to-Watch Award’, a label awarded by the Oxford Business Network from the United Kingdom to promising, innovative startups in the life sciences.
Rohit Malhotra is a medical expert and health journalist who offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being. His articles aim to help readers lead healthier lives.