ActiTrexx GmbH, a young biotech spin-off of the University Medical Center Mainz, has closed its Series A financing. A consortium led by LBBW Venture Capital GmbH with participation of MediVentures GmbH, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and Investitions- und Strukturbank Rheinland-Pfalz (ISB) invests a total of $4.2 million (€3.5 million).
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ActiTrexx: Prevention of exaggerated immune reactions
ActiTrexx is developing the product candidate ATreg, activated regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are stimulated by means of a proprietary process to prevent rejection reactions in transplant patients and excessive immune responses in autoimmune diseases. For this purpose, the regulatory T cells, as natural guardian cells of the immune system, are activated outside the body by a proprietary method and administered to patients as an infusion. The team led by Prof. Andrea Tüttenberg and Dr. Helmut Jonuleit from the Mainz Department of Dermatology intends to use the funds raised to further optimize and clinically test the novel cell therapy.
First clinical trials to take place this year
The first clinical trials for the treatment of leukemia patients after stem cell transplantation, in whom the risk of life-threatening transplant rejection, graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), is particularly high, are to start as early as 2021 in cooperation with the III Medical Clinic of the University Medical Center Mainz. Preclinical data have shown that ATreg can significantly attenuate pre-existing GvHD. Accordingly, a preventive treatment can largely prevent the development of the disease.
“If these observations can be confirmed in patients in the clinic, ATreg may be the cornerstone for a new, effective GvHD therapy with few side effects,” said Prof. Tüttenberg, CEO of ActiTrexx.
Manufacturing processes shortened to hours
In the past, regulatory T cells have been successfully used in academic studies for GvHD therapy. “However, the approach we are using represents a significant improvement over previously existing protocols due to the unique activation of Tregs. The ATreg product shortens the manufacturing process for Treg-based cell therapies from weeks to hours, and use of the cell preparation can thus take place within a very short time. This is of particular benefit to patients with acute GvHD who urgently need therapy,” added Dr. Jonuleit, CSO of ActiTrexx.
“The development of therapeutics to suppress an undesired immune response in stem cell and organ transplantation as well as autoimmune diseases is currently the focus of various biotech companies worldwide. However, the therapeutic application of regulatory T cells in this field has so far been limited by time-consuming and cost-intensive procedures,” explained Dr. Stefanie Wojciech, Investment Manager at LBBW VC. The therapy with ATreg is expected to undergo clinical testing already this year and should be available to the first patients in a few years.
In addition, ActiTrexx will receive funding from the GO-Bio program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the successful start of the company. The founders had already raised four million euros in funding in 2016 as part of the GO-Bio startup initiative. The company was founded only last year.
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