RCSI’s OncoLize raises $1.7m to treat tumours ‘from the inside’

14 Apr 2023

From left, front row: Libertatis Ergo’s Dr Ian Nicoud, RCSI’s Dr Aoife Gallagher, OncoLize CSO Prof Helena Kelly and CEO Mike G W de Leeuw. Back row: Leiden University’s Dr Luuk Hawinkels, Oncolize co-founder Dr Leo de Leede, RCSI’s Prof Fergal O’Brien and Libertatis Ergo’s Rob Mayfield. Image: Terpstra Stijn

The company has developed a system for injecting anti-cancer drugs directly into tumours to release the treatment at higher concentrations and over a longer period than conventional methods.

RCSI spin-out OncoLize has raised $1.7m to expand the testing of its drug delivery system for pancreatic and lung cancers.

The seed funding round was led by Libertatis Ergo Holding and Tailored Solutions. OncoLize said the round also included three high net worth impact investors.

The spin-out developed technology for injecting liquid anti-cancer drugs directly into tumours. This liquid formulation thickens into a soft gel within seconds to release the drugs at higher concentrations and over a longer period than conventional methods.

OncoLize said this method is a more effective delivery method for conventional chemotherapy drugs and for modern immuno-drugs, as it reduces the total drug load required and is expected to reduce the number of side effects experienced by patients.

“We have shown the concept to work in relevant animal models. We have first patents granted and in advanced national stages and we can scale up these products at minimal costs,” the company says on its website.

OncoLize will use the seed funding to expand its pre-clinical studies and prepare for its first human pancreatic tumour studies.

The RCSI spin-out also plans to set up its laboratories at the Leiden Bio Science Park in the Netherlands and prepare for Phase 1 and 2 trials in 2024.

OncoLize was founded by Mike GW de Leeuw, a serial entrepreneur with 17 years of business experience developing injectable drug-delivery systems. He is joined by industry veterans Dr Leo de Leede and Prof Helena Kelly, and has the support of the innovation team in the RCSI Office of Research and Innovation.

The spin-out plans to initially produce its drug products at RCSI, while in-vivo testing and surgical procedures will be carried out by Dr Luuk Hawinkels and his team in the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

Last December, researchers based at the RCSI discovered subtypes of brain tumours, which could lead to the development of more precise treatment for incurable brain cancer.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic