CV6 Therapeutics in Belfast to invest £8m for new cancer drug development

CV6 Therapeutics founder and chief executive Dr Robert Ladner (left) with Ian Greer, QUB president and vice chancellor; and Brian McCaul, chief executive at QUBIS. Picture: Andrew Towe
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A QUEEN'S University spin-in which has developed a potentially life-saving new cancer treatment is to invest £8 million to take its first anti-cancer drug through a first-in-human clinical trial.

CV6 Therapeutics (NI) specialises in innovative small molecule therapeutics for cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Investors participating in the latest financing round include QUBIS, the commercialisation arm of Queen's University; Invest NI; CoFund NI, managed by Clarendon Fund Managers; and Techstart Ventures, as well as US and UK-based private investors.

The company's first oncology drug CV6-168 works alongside standard cancer therapies to induce cancer cell DNA damage and cell death while simultaneously activating the immune system to further enhance its anticancer effect.

The new drug is set to enter a Phase 1a clinical trial next year which will focus on safety, measuring how the drug is absorbed by the body, identifying optimal dosing levels and gathering initial indications of anti-cancer activity.

The research team behind the company, which was originally founded in 2013 in Los Angeles, California, moved to Northern Ireland and established the company at Queen's University in 2015 after receiving an invitation from the late vice-chancellor Prof Patrick Johnston.

CV6 has availed of the start-up friendly biotech ecosystem in Northern Ireland including support from Queen's University and R&D grant funding from Invest NI.

CV6 is headquartered in the Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at Queen's, and its chief executive and founder Dr Robert Ladner said: “CV6-168 unlocks the potential of DNA uracilation as a promising new therapeutic approach to cancer treatment, with the opportunity to significantly improve outcomes for patients across multiple cancer types.

“Securing this financing and a grant for R&D from Invest NI will allow us to advance CV6-168 into a first-in-human Phase 1a clinical trial, representing a key milestone for CV6.”

He added: “CV6 has reached this stage as a direct result of the positive and supportive ecosystem that exists here in Northern Ireland for start-up and spin-in/spin-out companies and the direct support we continue to receive from Queen's University and QUBIS.

“The ecosystem here enabled us to seamlessly move our team over from California, add highly skilled people to that team and tap into several financial and scientific benefits we would not have been able to access elsewhere.

“It was very attractive for a US-based company to be able to come into an entrepreneurial institution that had already established itself UK-wide as a leader in supporting industry collaborations.

“CV6-168 is one of only a handful of new cancer drugs to have been developed from within a university setting anywhere in the UK, and the success of this potentially high impact drug would raise the profile of Belfast in the cancer research and drug development communities.”