Founded in 2007 and floated in 2013, Spago Nanomedical brings expertise in chemistry and nanoscale life science research to tumour-selective imaging and treatment. With an aim to become a leading company in cancer nanomedicine, Spago Nanomedical has two products in development.
Because blood vessels in solid tumours have to grow quickly to supply the cancer with oxygen and nutrients, these are often more permeable than normal, and the lymphatic vessels that drain the tissue also often don’t work well. This means that nanoparticles in the bloodstream can leak out into tumour tissues and stay there. Spago Nanomedical is using this effect, known as enhanced permeability and retention, to create nanoparticle-based diagnostics and treatments that accumulate in tumours and spare healthy tissue.
“Our approach is physiological rather than molecular targeting,” said Mats Hansen, CEO, Spago Medical. “This allows us to target a broader range of soft tissue tumours.”
Shining a light on cancer
Spago Nanomedical is using its nanoparticle production platform to create a cancer-selective MRI contrast agent, SpagoPix, that is designed to improve the contrast between tumour and non-tumour tissue.
“SpagoPix is moving into preclinical regulatory development and GLP [good laboratory practice] development, and we are preparing for the clinical phase. If all goes well, we hope to begin clinical trials in the second half of 2018. While SpagoPix has the potential to be applicable for several soft tissue tumor types, we will begin by focusing on one or two cancer types, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. We will focus where there is existing infrastructure for MRI contrast use within the radiology community.”
Imaging agent development essentially follows the same route as the development of therapeutics, with safety studies and efficacy studies to confirm the effectiveness in imaging. If the studies are successful, SpagoPix will create a niche in the market, as there are currently no tumour-selective MRI contrast agents on the market, according to Hansen.
“We believe that SpagoPix has potential to be three- to four-fold better at generating an MRI image that current MRI contrast agents, because of its high signal strength. Because it is based on manganese, an essential mineral, rather than gadolinium, a heavy metal not normally found in the body, we think it may have a safety advantage too,” said Oskar Axelsson, CSO, Spago Nanomedical.
Taking radiation to the tumour
Tumorad, Spago Nanomedical’s radionuclide-loaded cancer therapeutic, uses the same nanoparticle as SpagoPix.
There are other targeted cancer agents in development and on the market, but these use targeting moieties and antibodies. Because Tumorad relies on the simpler principle of passive accumulation, it could have lower manufacturing costs, and its preparation is likely to be much easier for the pharmacist or physician. It could also have much broader applications,” say Hansen.
While it is still in the discovery stage, the findings from the SpagoPix studies will feed in to its development process.
“Until now we have focused on SpagoPix, but as we move this into GLP studies and clinical trials with a CRO [clinical research organisation], we can allocate more resources to Tumorad,” said Hansen. “Presently, we are working on optimising the nanoparticle’s behaviour in the circulation.”
Moving towards the market
Spago Nanomedical’s business strategy is to develop its products into early clinical trials, and then work with a partner, or out-license the drug, for later-stage clinical trials, registration and commercialisation.