STipe Therapeutics

From Associate Professor to CSO with a series A investment

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In 2018, Martin R. Jakobsen, Associate Professor at Aarhus University, founded his first start-up. He had been awarded a PreSeed grant by the Novo Nordisk Foundation to pursue a promising oncology project, and he teamed up with the experienced entrepreneurial scientist Claus E. Olesen, also from Aarhus University.

Claus E. Olesen had already founded several companies and built a broad network in the biotech ecosystem that could support the team in developing the commercially potent discovery that Martin R. Jakobsen‘s research group had identified in the lab. The group had found a way to trigger the human body’s innate immune system to produce more efficient immunological responses. By targeting the so-called STING pathway, the group demonstrated that immune cells were able to produce inflammatory cytokines that enabled a potent antitumoral response.

“Think of a car. In current immunotherapy treatment, the patients are often given drugs that lift the breaks, so that the car can go faster. When we target the STING pathway, it is like putting a turbo engine in the car”, explains Martin R. Jakobsen.

The PreSeed grant allowed his group to establish a proof of concept, and in September 2018, STipe Therapeutics was accepted in BioInnovation Institute’s Creation House program with EUR 1.3M (DKK 10M) in funding, lab and office space, access to a global network, and business development.

Twelve months later, CSO Martin R. Jakobsen and CEO Claus E. Olesen signed the papers for a series A investment of EUR 20M co-led by Arix Bioscience and Novo Holdings and joined by Wellington Partners and Sunstone Life Science Ventures.

Explained: Creation house

In the Creation House program, start-ups relocate to BII’s incubator in Copenhagen for 18 months to work alongside other start-ups and business developers. The program’s primary objective is to help the start-ups create an attractive case that can raise substantial funding. BII supports through EUR 1.3M (DKK 10M) in funding, lab and office space, access to a global network, and business development.

Explained: The Science behind

STipe Therapeutics focuses on harnessing the innate immune system to battle cancer. The company has developed first-in-class drugs targeting intracellular protein-protein interactions of the STING pathway, a major driver of innate immunity and regulator of tumorigenesis and autoimmune disorders. The company has identified and validated compounds that sensitize the STING pathway and by this, modulates the tumor microenvironment to support a potent anti-tumoral response.

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Explained: Series A

A Series A investment is an important milestone for a start-up. It typically comes from Venture Capital companies that do not just invest in teams or great ideas but in solid business plans and clear indications that both product and strategy are viable. Most companies receive a Seed investment, such as a spot in the Creation House program, prior to attracting a Series A investment.

Many founders strive to reach a series A investment. How does it feel to get there?

It always feels good when you reach an important goal in front of you. To be backed by serious investors and see them truly believe in your idea is a great feeling, but with that said, not much has changed. We still work towards the same goals, engage in the same daily activities, and have fixed deadlines. Raising a series A investment doesn’t exactly allow you to sit back; on the contrary, you have to keep performing.

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The journey of STipe Therapeutics

  • 2016

    Scientific breakthrough at Aarhus University

  • Oct. 2017

    Martin R. Jakobsen receives the Novo Nordisk Foundation PreSeed grant

  • Jul. 2018

    STipe Therapeutics is founded b Martin R. Jakobsen and Claues E. Olesen

  • Sep. 2018

    The start-up joins BII’s Creating House

  • Sep. 2019

    STipe Therapeutics raises a series A funding of EUR 20M