Monday, March 29, 2021

Radiation boost lowers risk of prostate cancer recurrence


An additional external-beam radiation dose delivered directly to the tumor can benefit the prospects of men with non-metastatic prostate cancer, without causing additional side effects according to the FLAME study. 

The risk of relapse within five years for these men is smaller than for men who did not receive this boost, as shown by a large-scale study initiated by UMC Utrecht in collaboration with the Netherlands Cancer Institute, UZ Leuven and Radboudumc.

Radiation therapy is one of the treatment options for men with non-metastatic prostate cancer. Physicians deliver the external beam radiation to the entire prostate, as cancer cells often occur in several areas throughout the prostate. 

Only the main tumor is visible on a scan. If the cancer returns, it often recurs right where that visible tumor was located. Delivering an additional dose to this area appears very effective, as shown by the FLAME trial: a large-scale study involving 571 patients at UMC Utrecht, Netherlands Cancer Institute, UZ Leuven, and Radboudumc. Results will be published on the 20th of January in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Less recurrence
As part of the study, patients received 35 radiotherapy sessions with or without additional radiation boost delivered to the visible tumor. The men who had received the additional boost showed less recurrence over the first five years after treatment than the others. 92% of men who received the boost had low levels of PSA – an important indicator of prostate cancer – compared to 85% of men who had not. All participants were men diagnosed with intermediate- or high-risk tumors.

No additional side effects
“The radiation boost halved the percentage of men presenting with raised PSA levels over the first 5 years after treatment: from 15 to 8 percent,” radiation oncologist and research leader Linda Kerkmeijer of UMC Utrecht and Radboudumc clarifies. “The radiation boost did not lead to additional side effects, which is an important outcome.” The treatment is currently available at UMC Utrecht, the Netherlands Cancer Institute, UZ Leuven and Radboudumc.

Prevent trouble
“Our results can benefit a substantial number of men,” radiation oncologist Floris Pos of the Netherlands Cancer Institute explains. “Every year in the Netherlands, we give radiation therapy to hundreds of men who may qualify for this treatment. This could prevent a lot of trouble: for our patients, cancer recurrence often means uncertainty, diagnostic examinations, and intense treatments like surgery or hormone therapy.”

5 radiation sessions
At the start of the FLAME trial, standard treatment for these patients was 35 radiation sessions. Over the past years, this number has been scaled down to 20, and 5 for men with less aggressive tumor types. “Meanwhile, we have started a follow-up study that combines these new radiation boosts with 5 radiation sessions” (see information below), says radiation oncologist Karin Hausterman of UZ Leuven. “It appears that 5 radiation sessions may become the new standard for this group of patients as well.”

Information about prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men in the Netherlands. More than 12,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. In about half of these people, the cancer cells are still contained in the prostate (IKNL). These men have multiple treatment options, such as radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or surgical removal of the prostate.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Argobio a 50 M€ new European start-up studio for the creation and development of biotech companies

Esther Nakkazi

Argobio SAS, a newly-created start-up studio dedicated to life sciences, has today been launched with 50 M€ of committed capital for creation and development of therapeutic biotech spinouts. 

Argobio will create and launch at least five ambitious biotech companies over the next five years sourcing innovative early-stage projects from renowned European academic research institutions and it will focus on selected therapeutic areas, including rare diseases, neurological disorders, oncology, and immunology. It will also look to develop promising platform technologies for therapeutic products.

“We are very proud to launch today the first French start-up studio dedicated to Biotech alongside our partners, project on which we are working for more than two years," said Laurent Arthaud, Director of the Biotech and Ecotech investment of Bpifrance.

Argobio was initiated by Kurma Partners, a leading Paris and Munich-based healthcare venture capital firm, and Bpifrance, the French national investment bank who were joined by Angelini Pharma, a private international pharmaceutical company, Evotec, a drug discovery alliance and development partnership company, and the Institut Pasteur, internationally renowned center for biomedical research.

Thierry Laugel, Argobio President & Managing Partner at Kurma, said Argobio has the appropriate capital and environment to make the best of the European early stage biotech opportunities.

According to Peter Neubeck, Partner at Kurma Argobio represents the realization of a longstanding idea at Kurma, namely the creation of a professional biotech project incubator which would allow them to fully leverage the strong proprietary deal flow they are generating from their network with the best European academic institutions. 

Argobio will identify, select, and incubate these projects up to company creation, providing broad expertise in the discovery and development of innovative therapeutic products from its team of highly experienced biotech entrepreneurs. 

"We are very happy and thrilled to start working with this exceptional group of individuals and investors the Argobio concept has brought together with the common vision of turning the best science made in Europe into new therapies for patients around the globe,” Peter Neubeck, Partner at Kurma added.

The investors will have the opportunity to invest in the biotech companies created by Argobio. "we will be able to evaluate promising programs from the top European academic institutions and continue investing in innovative companies that are developing groundbreaking therapeutics in areas of high medical need," said Pierluigi Antonelli, CEO of Angelini Pharma. 

“Building on our BRIDGE strategy and partnerships, we continue to be dedicated to making Evotec’s all-modality technology platforms available to validate and accelerate therapeutic concepts from top-tier academic institutions globally,”said Dr. Werner Lanthaler, Chief Executive Officer of Evotec SE. 

"As an investor into Argobio, we are delighted to work with a group of distinguished partners and entrepreneurs to build companies committed to the maturation of first-in-class therapeutics towards drugs that which will change patients’ lives and cure diseases with some of the highest medical needs,” Lanthaler.

Prof. Stewart Cole, CEO of the Institut Pasteur, announces: "The Institut Pasteur as a strategic and scientific partner is pleased to participate to the creation of Argobio and to the value creation dynamics Argobio aspires to. 

In 2019, we have set up the Pasteurian Innovation Accelerator (PIA) to increase the development potential of our research applications: we are focusing our efforts on flagship projects certified by an independent committee. The investment of the Institut Pasteur and the close collaboration between PIA and Argobio are fully in line with this strategy”.
The team will be led by Yves Ribeill, Neill Mackenzie and RĂ©mi Soula. Thierry Laugel, Managing Partner at Kurma Partners will be appointed President of Argobio, and Laurent Arthaud, Director of the Biotech and Ecotech investment of Bpifrance, will be appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Board.


Monday, March 1, 2021

CABI BioProtection Portal launched in Uganda

The CABI BioProtection Portal, which helps growers and pest management advisors identify, source, and correctly apply biocontrol and biopesticide products for their specific crop-pest problems, is now available in Uganda in the local languages.
The portal, which is predicted to become the go-to resource for identifying and sourcing biocontrol and biopesticide products, will be particularly beneficial for growers looking to replace chemical pesticides with biological products to meet market or export standards, satisfy consumer demands for healthier and safer food and reduce pressures on the environment.

Dr Morris Akiri Regional Director at CABI Africa said, “Globally, an estimated 40 percent of crops are lost to pests and diseases. The widespread use of chemical pesticides to fight crop pests alone is not sustainable either economically or environmentally in the long run especially when you factor impacts exacerbated by climate change”.

“CABI is helping growers to adapt to this major challenge through projects that apply, among other things, our expertise in digital development and crop health as well as products like the CABI BioProtection Portal which promote sustainable approaches to pest management.”

“The CABI BioProtection Portal brings together in one place the various safer and more environmentally friendly biocontrol and biopesticide products that growers can add to their ‘arsenal’ against crop pests as part of an integrated pest management plan.”

Users of the CABI BioProtection Portal enter their country and crop-pest problem query in the system and generate key information on biocontrol and biopesticide products that are authorised by national regulators for that specific search. 

It is increasingly clear that certain kinds of chemical pesticides in agriculture are creating serious human health and environmental effects. Insights will be sourced directly from national governments’ list of registered pesticides and from partner biocontrol manufacturers.

“The government of Uganda has championed several reforms to provide a suitable foundation for the desired transformation in the Agricultural sector. Despite the gains so far attained, a few challenges are imminent. The proliferation of substandard inputs such as pest control products and fertilizers continue to deter our farmers from moving from subsistence to commercial agriculture.”

“There have been occasions in the past where the use of sub-standard products has resulted in the interception of our fresh produce exports hence rendering them less competitive in the global market.”

“It is in the backdrop of these challenges that innovations like the CABI BioProtection portal can play a role in sensitizing farmers and all other key players in the sector with the right information on where to source high quality, effective yet less hazardous crop protection products, said Mr. Pius Wakabi Kasaijja, The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). 

The CABI BioProtection Portal has now been launched in Uganda, in addition to already helping farmers reduce reliance on chemical pesticides in Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Jordan, Spain and Peru.

The innovative tool has been made available by CABI in collaboration with its network of partner biocontrol manufacturers (Biobest, e-nema, Idai NatureKoppert Biological Systems, Oro Agri and Syngenta) and donors (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, African Development Bank, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development) who provide invaluable support in the form of technical inputs, strategic guidance and funding.

Find out more information about the CABI BioProtection Portal at