PrOBMet is a spin-out from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences that draws on the collaborative expertise of the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre. The company is developing targeted treatments for breast cancer brain metastatic patients. We had a chat with one of the co-founders of PrOBMet, Leonie Young, about the company’s mission and vision.
What is the idea behind the company?
Our idea behind PrOBMet is to develop new targeted therapies for patients with advanced breast cancer. From our many years working in breast cancer care and research at RCSI and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre, we understand the significant unmet therapeutic need that exists for patients who have received a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the brain. This is particularly devastating as it is difficult to treat, and there are few therapeutic options for these patients. We aim to develop treatment options for these patients to give them a longer, healthier life.
What is the key driver for PrOBMet?
Breast cancer brain metastasis is particularly devastating, with survival times less than 12 months following diagnosis. There are limited targeted therapeutic options, compounded by the frequent exclusion of brain metastatic patients from interventional clinical trials. The key driver of our company is the advancement of care for people living with brain metastasis. We are a strongly patient-driven company, and we envisage that our lead therapy can offer real benefits to advanced breast cancer patients.
What have you already learned from being in the Venture Lab program?
The Venture Lab program has been invaluable to our company, even at this early stage of the program. We have learned a huge amount about building a successful start-up company. The ‘crunches’ give us a monthly spotlight for each of the key components of developing a business, and ‘halos’ enable us to acquire new skills to build a diverse and effective team to deliver these objectives. Furthermore, the program allows us to focus our energy on strengthening the business element of our start-up. It helps us recognize our blind spots and gives us the tools and knowledge to address them.
What would be the optimal outcome when finishing the program?
The optimal outcome of the program would be to cultivate a successful and resilient team with extensive business development knowledge and a clear vision of the company goals. We also hope that our time in the program will allow us to derisk our novel therapeutic sufficiently for further investment and to create industry, business, and scientific affiliations.
Who are your main competitors and how do you differ from them?
The current targeted therapeutics in a clinical trial for brain metastasis are incremental modifications of strategies currently used to treat primary disease. Our approach is different; genomically profiling primary and metastatic tumors from cancer patients, we identified a new drug target acquired with metastatic spread. We predict this novel approach will be highly efficacious and will help combat drug resistance, a common feature of current targeted therapies in the metastatic setting.
What considerations do you have regarding the fundraising process?
We hope to secure pre-seed funding within 12 months of starting the Venture Lab program. It has been a steep and exciting learning curve for us to gain knowledge about what is expected to raise funds. The program is facilitating us in understanding and strengthening our business development plan, which will be fundamental to successfully securing funding.
How has it been to transition from an academic mindset to a commercial mindset?
The overall objective of finding effective, kinder strategies for breast cancer brain metastatic patients remains core. However, the complexity of developing a business from scratch and all that it entails is completely new and a little outside of our comfort zone. It has been a steep learning curve that would be significantly more difficult without the support of BII.
Where do you see Probmet in 3-5 years? Which milestones do you need to achieve?
We hope that in five years, we will have secured Series A funding which will allow us to accelerate our product development and bring our lead therapy to phase 0/phase 1 clinical trial. Along with my fellow co-founders, Dr. Damir Vareslija and Professor Arnold Hill, we have excellent clinical trial experience at RCSI and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre. We hope to use this expertise within the company to successfully generate real-world data on our lead therapy.