As antibodies that do not bind the tumour will remain in the body for a long time, it is not always possible to immediately bring the radioactive emitters to tumours in the first step, says founder and CEO Marc Robillard. Then the radioactive substances would remain in the body for far too long. Sometime after the first injection, a second injection is needed with the radioactive substances. ‘Our radioactive molecule binds via a rapid click reaction to the label on the tumour only. Anything that does not bind is quickly urinated out of the body. With this approach we can achieve doses ten times higher than is the case for current drugs without any severe side effects or an accumulation of radiation.’
Tagworks recently expanded its application possibilities with a new discovery. They have succeeded in not only attaching the molecules to the label but also removing these from the label in a controlled manner. This discovery now makes it possible to very specifically attach medicines to a tumour using the antibodies and to remove them again at will. With this approach, for example, you could apply chemotherapy to just the cancer cells and that would drastically reduce the side effects. Studies are now being performed on mice with intestinal cancer.
Robillard is so convinced about his product that at the end of 2011 he started his business with a considerable part of his own money. In addition he received a grant from NanoNextNL and he has a licence on several patents. The seed for the company was planted in 2004 at Philips, which produces medical scanners. To make diseases such as cancer more visible, Philips started a lab to produce biomolecules and nanoparticles. Those molecules led in turn to research into possible treatment methods. When Philips decided to stop this line of research in 2010, Robillard wanted to go further and started his own company.
Robillard’s company is participating in NanoNextNL programme 3C, molecular imaging: ‘Thanks to NanoNextNL I have access to an entire consortium. And I don’t have to pay these people. NanoNextNL is therefore a fantastic asset for starters like me.’