● Foundational research published today in Cell is the first to describe ELANE, a major anti-cancer protein released by human neutrophils that activates cell death pathways specifically in cancer cells
● ELANE demonstrates broad and selective cancer killing efficacy and attenuation of tumor growth and metastases in multiple preclinical models
● Financing will advance the first drug candidate through preclinical proof-of-concept and interrogate the novel pathway for further pipeline development
SAN DIEGO, June 10, 2021 – Onchilles Pharma announced today a $7 Million Series A financing from LYZZ Capital and includes a $500,000 investment from the University of Chicago’s Startup Investment Fund. The proceeds of the financing will be used to develop first-in-class therapeutics to activate a novel pathway of the innate immune system with potential for universal anti-cancer activity, independent of genetic mutation. Research published in today’s issue of Cell is the first to describe this pathway where human neutrophils release catalytically active neutrophil elastase, called ELANE, to selectively kill many cancer cell types while sparing non-cancer cells.
“The ELANE pathway is an entirely new treatment paradigm with the potential to have broad and selective cancer killing activity regardless of genetic mutation or anatomical origin,” said Lev Becker, Ph.D., principal investigator on the publication, Scientific Founder and Board Member of Onchilles Pharma, and Associate Professor of Ben May Department of Cancer Research at UChicago. “We found that ELANE initiates a complex killing mechanism that culminates in cancer cell apoptosis at the initial tumor site as well as increases adaptive immunity that attacks distant metastases. We believe ELANE is the beginning of a highly conserved neutrophil pathway that is the immune system’s first response to aberrant cells and could be cancer’s Achilles’ heel.”
Data from today’s published research shows ELANE selectively kills cancer cells by proteolytically liberating the CD95 death domain, which interacts with histone H1. ELANE starts a complex cancer killing program that suppresses cell survival pathways, induces DNA damage, elevates mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production, and ultimately activates apoptosis effectors. ELANE consistently activated this program in 35 different cancer cell lines but not in any non-cancer cells tested. In animal models, ELANE attenuates primary tumor growth and produces a CD8+T-cell-mediated abscopal effect to attack distant metastases.
“As part of innate immunity, neutrophils have broad efficacy and specificity to eliminate genetically diverse cellular threats, and ELANE is the major anti-cancer protein in the neutrophil arsenal,” said Court R. Turner, Cofounder and Executive Chairperson of Onchilles Pharma and Partner at LYZZ Capital. “Our initial in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies of our first drug candidate to activate this pathway show direct and selective anti-cancer efficacy, an encouraging safety profile, and a lack of resistance with repeated exposure. This financing will support proof-of-concept preclinical studies as well as exploration of this novel pathway for additional drug targets.”
The research entitled, “Neutrophil elastase selectively kills cancer cells and attenuates tumorigenesis,” was published in the June 10, 2021 issue of Cell and is available at this link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.04.016.
Onchilles holds an exclusive license to the intellectual property generated from this research from the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation manages the licensed intellectual property and negotiated the exclusive license with Onchilles Pharma.
About LYZZ Capital
LYZZ Capital is a life science-dedicated venture capital fund with offices in Shanghai and San Diego. It invests globally in innovative biotech and medtech companies addressing unmet medical needs. Members of the LYZZ management team have decades of entrepreneurial and management experience in startup and multi-national pharmaceutical companies. They take pride in working with their portfolio companies and sharing their operational expertise and global network. For more info, visit www.lyzzcap.com.
About Onchilles Pharma
Onchilles Pharma was founded on breakthrough research of a novel neutrophil pathway that when activated selectively and comprehensively kills cancer cells. Based on this research, the private biotech company is developing a pipeline of first-in-class drug candidates that have the potential to be broadly effective against a wide range of cancers. Onchilles is headquartered at the Alexandria GradLabs in San Diego.