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Leman Biotech raises USD 11 million for its immunotherapy boosting protein

Life sciences

15 March 2022

EPFL spin-off Leman Biotech has raised USD 11 million for its protein that can improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs used to treat some types of cancer.

Immunotherapy is a promising new weapon in the fight against some types of cancer. It involves enhancing the ability of a patient’s own immune system to identify and destroy tumor cells. However, this form of treatment fails in around two thirds of patients because their T cells – the main cancer-killing lymphocytes – become exhausted. One option scientists are currently studying to improve the efficacy of immunotherapy is to add a protein that gives a boost to tired T cells. That’s the path being explored by EPFL spin-off Leman Biotech.

Its researchers have tested one such protein and found it has a nearly 90% efficacy rate on mice. “We ran several more preclinical trials these past few months using different types of human tumors transplanted into mice,” says Prof. Li Tang, EPFL Professor and Co-Founder of Leman Biotech. “The results were just as encouraging, and the mice went on to have normal life expectancies.”

The company just raised USD 11 million in its first funding round. The next step will be to complete the preclinical trials and then enter the clinical phase, which the start-up hopes to do within two years.

“For a first funding round, USD 11 million is a hefty sum,” said Natalia Giovannini of the EPFL’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO). “Leman Biotech’s success in attracting capital reflects the considerable interest in its innovation.”

The company will use the proceeds to quickly ramp up its operations. “We’ve already opened two research labs – one in the Superlab Suisse, at the Biopôle in Epalinges, and the other in southern China where our co-founder is based,” concludes Tang.