New drug candidate under development

Oncopeptides has a new drug candidate for the treatment of a form of cancer of the blood, multiple myeloma, under development. KI Innovations played a key role in getting the project underway.

Picture on Rolf Lewensohn dressed in a blure shirt.
Rolf Lewensohn. Photo: N/A

Oncopeptides was founded in 2000 by some of Sweden’s leading oncological, clinical and medical researchers. The innovation behind Oncopeptides builds on the development of a cytotoxin that searches for and targets a specific type of cancer cell. However, the development phase took longer than expected due to uncertainty surrounding its effectiveness.

“We then came into contact with the leading multiple myeloma research group at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, that was able to confirm our results. They saw so much potential in the project that they wanted to take control of it completely. This spurred interest among Swedish investors and accelerated the pace of our work,” explains Rolf Lewensohn, professor of oncology at Karolinska Institutet, and consultant at Karolinska University Hospital.

Capital was soon raised in Sweden to conduct Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials in co-operation with, among others, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Clinicians as a driving force

During Oncopeptides’ first three years of operation, Lewensohn served as CEO.

“It was an instructive journey that provided entirely new perspectives on the opportunities of achieving clinical benefit from discoveries, and showed how we can meet the university’s third responsibility, namely to work with society and industry.”

“One of the strengths behind Oncopeptides was that development was led by clinicians,” he says.

“This was a virtually unique situation because as it was us heading-up the project, we understood the potential that lay in the use of the drug. It was a major advantage to have awareness of the patient’s perspective.”

Oncopeptides was listed in 2017, and work is now underway on the upcoming Phase 3 clinical trial.

“We had early contact with KI Innovations who supported us with investment and contributed to business development and provided advice. We currently anticipate having a new drug ready in the next couple of years,” says Lewensohn.

Quick facts

An incurable cancer

Every year, close to 700 people in Sweden contract myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. It is a chronic condition, which develops in considerably different ways between individuals. While the condition is incurable, survival rates have improved every year in the past 10 years, thanks to the large number of new drug treatments that have been developed.