Apeiron Biologics CEO Hans Loibner said: "Our concept is that we would like to develop small molecule (synthetically produced) substances which provide the immune system with specific properties.” Apeiron and Evotec established a screening system to search through a substance library containing about 100,000 substances to find an enhancing effect on immune cells. Several drug candidates were discovered within the context of the project APN411.
In contrast to monoclonal antibodies, the new drug candidates showed in laboratory tests that they could trigger several effects in the immune cells. These produce more of the anti-tumor messenger substances interleukin-2, interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha. The T-cells showed enhanced activity.
It is also decisive for the project that the substances are small and can be very effectively produced on an industrial scale.
Apeiron, founded by Josef Penninger, Head of the Institute for Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna (IMBA), is already involved in early clinical tests in the USA with APN401, another cancer checkpoint project. A medicine developed by Apeiron to treat brain tumors in children is awaiting approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).