AbbVie-backed Disco gets down with €20M to find new targets for antibody-based therapies

Disco Pharmaceuticals has arrived on the dance floor with the backing of AbbVie’s VC arm and €20 million ($21.8 million) in seed financing to cut a rug with its lung and colorectal cancer candidates.

While antibodies continue to attract Big Pharma’s attention, highlighted by the recent deal-making frenzy around antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), the space is being held back by the shallow pool of cancer-selective cell surface targets, according to Disco. In fact, “there are currently less than 30 molecular targets which form the basis of all antibody-based therapies,” the German biotech pointed out in a Jan. 16 release.

With this in mind, the Cologne-based company has developed a surfaceome mapping platform that can identify the proteins found across the surface of cancer cells, expanding the potential targets for mono- and bispecific antibodies.

Disco has already completed what it claims is the first-ever surfaceome of a cancer type—in this case, small cell lung cancer—and is now developing antibody-based treatments based on this work. Disco is also researching microsatellite-stable colorectal cancer, and beyond these two programs the biotech hinted at a pipeline that “includes further undisclosed programs.”

Disco was formed in May 2022 as a spinout from work conducted at Switzerland’s ETH Zürich research university. Roman Thomas, a professor of translational genomics at Cologne University, has been appointed Disco’s CEO, while Dieter Weinand, a former CEO of German pharma giant Bayer, is chairman of the board.

“We believe that our surfaceome discovery technology is truly disruptive and will transform oncology treatment options and ultimately improve outcomes for patients,” Thomas said in the release. “Surfaceome mapping in small cell lung cancer—that we have completed within months—has validated our technology platform and approach, demonstrating its potential, and we look forward to applying it to different indications.”

Sofinnova Partners led the seed financing round, which was supported by AbbVie Ventures, Panakes Partners and M Ventures. Back in November, Sofinnova’s chairman and managing partner Antoine Papiernik told Fierce Biotech that investors remained optimistic about the European biotech scene.