ComMIT Biologics is a biotech spin-out from Aarhus University developing a new type of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer. The company was founded on the discovery that a vital part of the innate immune system can be activated to kill tumor cells using bi-specific single-domain antibodies.
We took a chat with the four founders Heidi Gytz Olesen, Nick Stub Laursen, Mikael Winkler and Dennis Pedersen to learn more about the company’s mission and vision.
What is the key driver for ComMIT Biologics?
Despite the significant developments within cancer immunotherapy in recent years, we still see a massive gap in treatment options and a need for innovative solutions. When we discovered the potential of our technology, we saw the opportunity to fill in this gap, and we felt it was our responsibility to mature the technology to treat cancer patients. We are patient-driven and genuinely hope that our technology can benefit patients’ lives in terms of better treatments. We are excited about developing our business and were delighted when we got the opportunity to join the BII and its creative community.
How big of a change is it to transition from an academic mindset to a more commercial mindset?
It is a massive change and we are excited about learning a lot during the Venture Lab program and getting accustomed to a more commercial way of thinking. The founding team only consists of research scientists, and we are trained to focus primarily on scientific details. However, we all reached a stage in our academic careers where we felt the desire to work on a project that could make a difference in people’s lives. Additionally, it is also intriguing to challenge ourselves by being part of an environment where people think differently than us. Currently, we only have limited knowledge of what it means to start a company and what the different positions in a company entail. We have not been equipped with those skills from the university as students are only rarely introduced to the commercial possibilities of bringing research ideas to market during their studies.
We are inspired by other companies that spun out from Aarhus University, such as Draupnir Bio, Muna Therapeutics, NMD Pharma, and STIPE Therapeutics. All those companies have been highly successful, and we believe that we can follow in their footsteps.
What considerations have you made regarding the timing of spinning out from the university?
During the last five years, we have established a solid technology platform and we considered at an earlier stage to spin out from the university. Still, we are happy that we decided to wait and to mature our technology further. If we had spun out two or three years ago, we could quickly have become overwhelmed by the challenges in showcasing our technology’s functionality and providing a commercial track. It would have been riskier to go directly after venture capital from day one. Being part of BII’s Venture Lab program offers a unique opportunity to develop our team and business step by step in an environment where everyone shares the vision of making our own company a success.
What would be the optimal outcome of the Venture Lab program?
Our main priority is to secure additional funding to develop the technology further and continue our entrepreneurial journey. Additionally, we need to prove our concept in vivo (red. research done in a living organism) as we currently have cellular and biochemical data. Our scope is now rather broad since we believe that our technology can form a new platform for immunotherapy. However, during the Venture Lab program, we will focus on a single indication and generate a large data package around this type of cancer.
Who are your main competitors and how do you differ from them?
A couple of competitors are positioned in the same field of immunotherapy, including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Genmab. However, our technology completely rethinks the way we can initiate the immune system with therapeutic agents. We see competition as something positive since it confirms the market potential and provides us with a chance to benchmark ourselves. The benchmarking encouraged us to establish the company as we observed superior readouts of our technology compared to state-of-the-art treatments.
It is a long journey to bring a pharmaceutical drug on the market. What are your expectations before starting?
We are all-in and one hundred percent committed to ComMIT Biologics! There is no doubt that we will work our tails off to make this company a success. Through our colleagues who have been part of Muna Therapeutics’ and Draupnir Bio’s journey, we can hopefully learn from their experiences. They are some years and lots of millions in front of us, but why not set the bar high from the beginning?
Matthias Wulf, Business Developer at BII, says the following about ComMit Biologics:
“Overcoming the immune-suppressive environment is a major challenge for the treatment of cancer. The company has developed a novel approach to activate the immune system and selectively target cancer cells. The data today looks very promising and ComMiT’s technology could become a wider platform that is relevant for several cancer indications.”