Caedo Oncology - Direction correction for the immune system
Helping the body’s defence system to find and fight cancer
By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen, published 12 August, 2022
What if one drug alone could not only treat a cancer type, but multiple cancer types more rapidly and with less side effects than the current gold standard? If all things go to plan, that is exactly what Caedo aims to accomplish.
“We are developing antibodies allowing the immune system to recognise cancer cells” Nina Richartz, Senior Scientist at Caedo, explains. She, together with Seham Skah, Research Scientist, and Sittana Mattar, Industrial PhD Candidate, make up the core lab team at Caedo. Caedo is an immuno-oncology company and the first product they are developing is an antibody that recognises and binds the cell surface molecule CD47. CD47 is expressed across all cell types in the body and is essentially signalling “don’t eat me” to the immune system. It is important that cells can signal to the body’s defence mechanisms that they are healthy and should be protected, however, the same mechanism has been found to be used by a range of cancer cell types for immune evasion. By over-expressing CD47, malignant cells can go under the radar of the immune system, which potentiates their development, metastasis, and treatment resistance. At Caedo, they are working on marking the cancer cells for clearance by the immune system. By blocking CD47 on the cancer cell, the “don’t eat me” signal is silenced, and the immune system is activated.
Although Caedo’s antibody, CO-1, is not the only anti-CD47 drug under development, it appears to be unique in its effects. One of the hallmarks of cancer cells is that they have acquired resistance to undergo programmed cell death (PCD). An important and exciting property of CO-1 is that its interaction with CD47 induces PCD of the cancer cells with high efficacy. “We are still in the pre-clinical phase with the effects of treatment still being uncovered.” Nina explains. “However, we do have good indications that the antibody provides a dual mechanism both targeting cancer cells directly by inducing PCD and by enhancing cancer cell phagocytosis across multiple cancer cell types”.
Getting CO-1 to market could transform the lives of cancer patients. Cancer treatment comes with a range of life quality reducing side-effects. The proposed dual mechanism of the Caedo’s drug could lower the need for co-treatments, consequently decreasing the potential side-effects, and improving the patient’s quality of life during treatment. Moreover, the rapid induction of the response may also result in a shorter treatment window for the patient. Lastly, as over-expression of CD47 is common in several cancer types, multiple patient groups could benefit from the drug. Although still speculative, CO-1 could in short provide a swifter therapy with less side effects across patient groups than current gold standards.
From left: Seham Skah, Nina Richartz, Sittana Matar
When asked about life in Caedo, the passion for the field is evident across the scientific team. “You are developing a product that you know can help people, and society in general”, says Seham. All three have backgrounds in academia, and they are quick to emphasise the importance of academic research. However, the potential of knowledge translation in applying the insights gained from study and research to develop something tangible with the power to help people is rewarding, they explain. This aspect was always a badge of pride for Sittana from her days in BigPharma. “Being able to see the products you have worked with on the shelf at the pharmacy is rewarding” she explains.
Life in a small company is varied. The next day does not look like the last, and the team faces new challenges on the frequent. It is important to be flexible and solution oriented, they explain, adding on that the dynamics in the company allows them to develop a broad set of skills and test different facets of their field. Watching the team discuss their work, the passion for the product is evident. “When you’re excited about the product, the challenges become interesting problems to solve.” And it all boils down to the passion for improving patients’ lives. “The bottom line is helping people” Nina finishes.
Two years from now the hope is that Caedo goes into the first clinical trials with CO-1. Potentially they have also started to explore some of their other potential targets, “and we hope we’re a big team by then” Nina smiles.
About Caedo Oncology
Caedo Oncology AS was established by Kjetil Hestdal and Rolf Pettersen in 2020. It is based on research conducted by Hestdal and Pettersen in the late nineties at Oslo University Hospital with the original discovery of CD47 as a programmed cell death inducing pathway. The company is backed by Norwegian specialist investor Sarsia Seed, with the administration and research located at ShareLab, Oslo Science Park.
CO-01 is a monoclonal antibody blocking the SIRPa CD47 interaction by binding to CD47. CD47, a “don't eat me” signal for phagocytic cells, is expressed on the surface of all human solid tumor cells. Interestingly, CO-01's interaction with CD47 also triggers apoptosis of the target cancer cell. The antibody is in preclinical development.
ShareLab is an incubator with fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and will reinvest funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to help fuel life science.
If you would like to know more, you may contact Johanne and the ShareLab Team via LinkedIn or other social media.