University of Auckland: Uni biotech spin-off developing cancer treatment gets $15m boost

TamoRx, a biotech start-up spun out of the University of Auckland, is getting $15.25m to accelerate the development of a treatment for cancer.

Founded by Dr Joanna Mathy and Professor Rod Dunbar from the School of Biological Sciences, the company aims to develop an immunotherapy medicine to help patients’ immune systems destroy cancer cells.

The investment was led by life-science investor Brandon Capital, along with the University of Auckland Inventors’ Fund, managed by UniServices, the University’s commercialisation and research impact company.

“We discovered a new mechanism that restricts the immune system from fighting cancer,” says Dr Mathy. “We are aiming to free patients’ immune systems from this restriction and increase the immune attack on cancer cells within tumours.”

The funding will be enough for early-stage clinical trials if pre-clinical development is successful, she says.

“The new immune control pathway we discovered offers new hope for a broad range of cancer patients,” says Professor Dunbar.

The investment includes a Callaghan Innovation repayable grant of $750,000, administered by Brandon Capital, one of the four partners selected for the Callaghan Innovation Technology Incubator Programme.

In April 2016, New Zealand joined the Brandon Capital-managed Brandon BioCatalyst Collaboration (originally called the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund) enabling New Zealand research organisations to become members and seek investment for emerging technologies.

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