Biotech companies within the PPF Group, controlled by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, are reporting advances in efforts to extend the lives of cancer patients. The companies Sotio and Cytune Pharma announced on Thursday that they had started the first trial dosing of cancer patients with SO-C101, a superagonist fusion protein of interleukin IL-15.
“We believe that SO-C101 has the potential to make a life-changing difference to many patients with difficult-to-treat forms of cancer. I am looking forward to further advancing this innovative therapy,” said Dr Aurélien Marabelle, a coordinating investigator of the trial, said in a statement.
SO-C101 (formerly named RLI-15) is intended to enhance immunity against cancer cells. Simply put, it is an artificial protein that promotes the emergence of two types of cells important for immunity in fighting tumours – T-lymphocytes and NK cells.
According to Sotia, this treatment is a completely new immunotherapeutic approach.
“The product stimulates the anti-tumour immune response without activating other immune mechanisms that previously had significant adverse effects with similar agents,” Sotia spokesman Richard Kapsa told business daily Hospodářské noviny.
Previous tests in mice have shown that, along with additional complementary therapy, the substance was able to eradicate prostate tumours in 70 percent of the mice tested and also had positive results in monkey testing. Sotio also sees potential in treating other forms of cancer.
In the first phase, which will take about two years, the substance will be tested on patients in hospitals in France, Spain, the UK and the US. If all goes well, Sotio plans to expand testing to the Czech Republic.
Prague-based Sotio became part of PPF Group in 2012 and leads its efforts to build a diverse biotech portfolio through its own research & development, collaborations, in-licensing, investments, mergers and acquisitions.
Sotio has been testing people for prostate, lung and ovarian cancer since about 2014 and also operates in the US, China and Russia.
Cytune Pharma began working closely with PPF three years ago. Kellner’s holding also holds shares in other biotech companies working to develop cancer treatment drugs, including Swiss companies NBE-Therapeutics and Cellestia Biotech.
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