LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Feb. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Onward Therapeutics SA (Onward) announced today the execution of a strategic investment in EMERCell SAS, Montpellier, France, a company that has developed a platform technology to produce off-the-shelf natural killer (NK) cells. The undisclosed amounts of the equity investment in three instalments, allow Onward to become the majority shareholder. Dr. Alain Herrera, Chief Medical Officer of Onward, has been elected Chairperson of the Board of EMERCell.
In the era of cancer immunotherapy, NK cells are one of the immune cells that can be harnessed, along with antibodies or genetic modifications to kill tumor cells. One major advantage of EMERCell’s technology is its versatility in offering allogeneic, instead of autologous treatment by CAR-T or CAR-NK cell therapy. Onward will assist EMERCell to scale up their patented process of activation and amplification of allogeneic NK cells and to conduct clinical investigations.
"Through its capital investment in EMERCell, Onward will have access to a proprietary technology to produce highly activated NK cells. Based on our ‘Buy and Build’ business model, this deal enables Onward to leap forward in developing a foothold in the field of immuno-oncology, and it may synergize with the bispecific antibody project that we recently licensed from Biomunex." said Dr. C. Grace Yeh, Chairman and CEO of Onward. "We envision a great prospect in exploiting this off-the-shelf NK cell therapy and proprietary antibodies as two pillars to build our next generation of product portfolio."
"We are pleased to collaborate with Onward Therapeutics which brings to us their strong experience in the field of therapeutic development in immuno-oncology. This is a major objective for the next steps concerning the NK cell therapy project." explained Dr. Patrick Henno, Founder and CEO of EMERCell. "Together, we will be able to scale up and industrialize the production of activated NK cell very rapidly in order to offer new treatments for cancer patients."
About Onward Therapeutics
Onward Therapeutics is a development stage oncology company, focusing on the identification and development of innovative medicines for the treatment of cancer. The company, led by an experienced team in drug development, adopts a ‘Buy and Build’ business model of acquiring licenses for potential development candidates and investing in their partners with platform technologies. Onward has licensed a preclinical stage, bispecific antibody targeting two immune checkpoints from Biomunex Pharmaceuticals SAS, Paris, France; and invested in a preclinical stage, NK cell technology from EMERCell SAS, Montpellier, France. The company is based at Biopôle (a life sciences campus in Epalinges), near Lausanne, Switzerland and also operates from Paris, France and Taipei, Taiwan.
EMERCell was created in February 2013 and is located at the IRMB (Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapies) at the Saint-Eloi University Hospital Center, Montpellier, France. One of EMERCell’s lead drug candidates, NK-001, is intended for the treatment of CD20-positive lymphomas in the patients who are refractory to conventional therapies. It is a patented process for pre-activating and amplifying the effects of allogeneic NK (Natural Killer) cells. EMERCell collaborates with numerous industrial and academic partners. The company has received the support of the Occitanie Region (ADI) and Bpifrance and has obtained a FUI (financing). EMERCell is a member of Eurobiomed.