ONCURIOUS NV Announces First Preclinical Proof of Concept in Proprietary CCR8 Treg Program

22 Oct 2020


  • Strategic focus of immuno-oncology (I-O) portfolio on modulation of tumor microenvironment to enhance T cell influx and activity in immune excluded solid tumors, aspects that immune checkpoint inhibitors do not address.
  • Preclinical Proof of Concept for Company’s priority I-O program, aiming at depleting regulatory T cells (Tregs) by targeting C-C motif chemokine receptor 8 (CCR8)
  • Initiating lead optimization phase in proprietary CCR8 Treg Program.
  • Preclinical development of therapeutic antibody program expected to start in early 2021.

Leuven, Belgium - October 22, 2020 - 6.45 PM CET, ONCURIOUS NV, a Belgium-based biotech company focused on developing innovative immune-oncology treatments, today presents its strategy directed at boosting T cell migration, infiltration and activity into solid tumors, and announces that it has reached preclinical proof of concept and has entered the lead optimization phase with its proprietary CCR8 Treg program.

This important milestone follows Oncurious’ decision to focus its development activities on a pipeline of promising novel immune-oncology targets and drug discovery projects.

Oncurious scientists, in collaboration with world-class immuno-oncology experts in T cell and endothelial cell biology – Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bergers (VIB-KU Leuven), Prof. Dr. Massimiliano Mazzone (VIB-KU Leuven) and Prof. Dr. Jo Van Ginderachter (VIB-VUB), and the drug discovery unit at VIB, are building a pipeline of proprietary investigational I-O therapies with distinct mode of actions.

The team has discovered a potent and diverse panel of leads targeting human CCR8, has reached preclinical proof of concept and is entering the final lead optimization stages nearing preclinical candidate selection. Oncurious is now accelerating its efforts towards initiation of preclinical development of the therapeutic antibody program in early 2021.

CCR8 has been validated to be a tumor-infiltrating Treg-specific marker in solid tumors in both patients and animal models, making it the preferred target for therapeutic depletion of Tregs in cancer.

Oncurious’ CCR8 leads have been generated using an antibody technology platform that has been validated and used for more than a decade to generate high quality binders against G-protein coupled receptors. Molecules discovered using this technology were tested in several preclinical tumor models, and showed that targeting CCR8, depleted Tregs specifically in the tumor microenvironment and resulted in strong anti-tumor responses in monotherapy as well as in combination with anti-PD1. The treatments led to the establishment of immunological memory.

Next to the anti-CCR8 program, Oncurious is focusing on 2 other programs aimed at boosting anti-tumor T cell influx and activity in immune excluded tumors. Exclusion of T cells is an immunosuppressive mechanism commonly used by cancers to evade the immune system and as such is an attractive target for new therapeutic modalities. 

The company expects to make further announcements regarding its progress in the near future.

Patrik De Haes, M.D., Executive Chairman of ONCURIOUS NV comments: “I am excited about the future of Oncurious based on its portfolio of novel, differentiated I-O therapies. The company’s approach is to generate novel drug candidates to treat immune excluded solid tumors that are not adequately addressed by immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are rapidly becoming the mainstay of cancer therapy. Today we are announcing significant progress in both hit and lead generation against novel I-O targets, including CCR8, which we believe could play a key role in the development of innovative immunotherapies to overcome solid tumor resistance. Working with leading scientists in the field, we aim to be at the forefront of a new wave of the I-O revolution and are confident that by delivering on our goals we can build Oncurious into a company of significant value in the years ahead. We look forward to updating you on our further progress.” 

Jérôme Van Biervliet, Managing Director at VIB comments: "We are very pleased to see Oncurious' anti-CCR8 antibody reach this important step towards preclinical development, not least thanks to the model collaboration with VIB Discovery Sciences. Side-by-side with the Oncurious team, they are accelerating a promising pipeline of investigational immuno-oncology therapies."