Apeiron bags €25m from EIB
Supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted a €25m loan to the Austrian pediatric cancer specialist Apeiron Biologics AG to boost its pipeline of antibodies, fusion proteins and low molecular weight checkpoint inhibitors.
Hans Loibner, Chief Executive Officer of the 11-year-old Viennese biotech, said: “Our recent achievement of obtaining the EU marketing authorisation for our most advanced project in combination with access to additional funding through the EIB forms a very promising basis for our company’s future.”
The investment of the EIB will fuel the development of cancer pipeline of Apeiron Biologics, which already markets an antibody drug (dinutuximab beta, APN311) that targets the GD2 antigen highly expressed by the rare pediadric cancer neuroblastoma in Europe Most recently, the antibody has been licenced for FDA registration. Further clincical candidates include APN301, an intratumourally administered fusion protein of an humanised anti-GD2 antibody and the proinflammarory cytokine Interleukin 2 /IL-2 (Phase IIa) to treat neuroblastoma and melanoma. Additionally, Apeiron has a cancer cell therapy in Phase I testing. Dubbed APN401 it consists of patient-derived PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) in which the Cbl-b gene is silenced ex vivo by siRNAs and reinfused after proliferation to boost T cell responses in solid tumours, which show an „inflamed“ phenotype. Additionally, several projects in which low molecular weight immune checkpoint modulators are given to boost cancer-specific T cell responses are in preclinical stage and partly co-developed with German Evotec and Sanofi. Apeiron’s candidate drug APN01, a recombinant human angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (rhACE2), was licenced in 2010 to GlaxoSmithKline in a deal worth €230m if all milestones are met.
The EIB investment will be used to add qualified staff for new projects to Apeiron’s 35 employees. Andrew McDowell, Vice President of the EIB and responsible for Austria, said: “Our loan, in particular through its long tenor and its favorable financing conditions, will enable Apeiron to significantly increase its R&D activities. This will create 5-10 highly qualified jobs and will increase Apeiron’s workforce by up to 25%.”
European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “I am delighted that the Investment Plan is contributing to ground-breaking research and development projects undertaken by Apeiron to develop new drug treatments.”