Slowing tumour growth with a therapeutic antibody

GO-Bio 5 – Markus Junker – Research associate in the Tumour Immunology junior research group, University Women's Clinic Würzburg | Synimmune GmbH


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Recipient: University Women's Clinic Würzburg
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.06.2013 - 30.06.2016, 1.793.179 Euro)

Recipient: SYNIMMUNE GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (01.03.2012 bis 31.07.2015, 2.787.242 Euro)


In many cases of cancer, the affected cells produce excess quantities of specific growth factors or signalling molecules. This also applies to the growth factor GDF-15 (growth and differentiation factor-15). Increased concentrations of this soluble protein molecule, which can be detected in the blood, encourage the growth of tumours and the development of metastases. As part of his doctoral thesis, Markus Junker has created a monoclonal antibody that can specifically target the GDF-15 molecule, thereby blocking its effect. In a series of animal experiments, it has already been shown that it is possible to inhibit tumour growth by blocking GDF-15.

On the basis of these promising data, the antibody is now set for further development as an active substance for use in immunotherapy. In the first phase of GO-Bio funding, the antibody will optimised for use in clinical trials and produced according to GMP standards. Initial work will concentrate on the adaptation of the active substance for use in humans, namely the ‘humanisation’ of the molecule. Further versions of the antibody as well as an accompanying diagnostic test will be developed in parallel. The drug candidates must then prove themselves in preclinical studies and toxicity tests.

Here, Junker and his team are cooperating with the Section of Experimental Antibody Therapy of the University of Tübingen as well as the company Synimmune, which was founded in 2010 within the scope of GO-Bio funding. The development of the accompanying diagnostics will involve a collaboration with the company Vasopharm. The founding of a company is planned once GMP production of the antibody and successful toxicity testing are completed. The ‘Early Clinical Trial Unit’ of the University Clinic of Würzburg is available for clinical trials.

In the second funding phase, Synimmune GmbH, founded in 2010, will test bispecific antibodies against leukemia in both preclinical and clinical studies as well as research further monoclonal antibodies against solid tumors.

Synimmune GmbH was able to successfully expand its product pipeline after the GO-Bio funding expired and clinical studies are currently being conducted.