German billionaires back $76M gamble on Glycotope's drug trials

A pair of billionaire brothers helped Glycotope round up $76 million in venture cash to pay for Phase IIb trials of a pair of cancer drugs as well as a late-stage effort for a fertility therapy. The Strüngmann group, a family firm led by Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, and the Eckert Life Science Accelerator put up the cash.

The development company, which bills itself as one of Germany's largest venture-backed biotechs with more than $180 million raised to date, is pursuing development work on its lead antibody, PankoMab-GEX, and a me-better version of Erbitux dubbed CetuGEX. Panko-Mab is one of the company's GlycoBodies, antibodies which are designed to target tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens. It's been in the clinic for ovarian and non-small cell lung cancer. A Phase III study of the "glycooptimized" fertility hormone FSH-GEX (not an antibody) is expected to launch this summer.

The company was founded back in 2001 as a spinoff of the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, building its expertise in glycosylation of proteins. It now has facilities in Berlin and Heidelberg, with a big focus on so-called "bio-betters."

"Our innovative technologies for optimizing sugar structures on proteins, among other things, enable us to increase the tolerability, effectiveness, and affordability of a large number of proven medications," noted CEO and founder Dr. Steffen Goletz in a statement.

The identical twins Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann, who founded the big generics company Hexal and sold it to Novartis for $7.5 billion, have a big stake in biotech. They recently helped Mainz, Germany-based Ganymed raise $60 million (€45 million) in a new venture round.

- here's the press release