Recolony focuses on the development of a bacteria-based therapy for colorectal cancer that primarily consists of selected bacteria of the gut microbiota. These bacteria have an enormous influence on the immune system and are able to provoke and enhance an immune reaction against cancer. The bacteria will be orally applied in gastro-resistant capsules with colonic release. With this approach, Recolony aims to develop a new class of drugs for the treatment and prevention of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer and the second leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. In advanced stages, 5-year-survival rates are below 15%. While current immunotherapies have shown to be effective in certain cancer entities, they usually fail in patients with advanced colorectal cancer with a response rate of only 3-6%.
Recent technological advances in biomedical research have contributed to characterize the human microbiome and the potential to monitor, prevent or even cure human disease through specific microbiota interventions. Targeted modifications of the gut microbiota have little or no side effects and have the potential to considerably improve the therapeutic outcomes as well as the quality of life of cancer patients under treatment. The Recolony team identified specific strains of bacteria that are less abundant in individuals with colorectal cancer compared to those without. In pre-clinical animal experiments, it was found that supplementation with those bacteria was sufficient to trigger an anti-tumor immune response in colorectal cancer as well as in melanoma, breast and lung cancer. The results showed enhanced immune cell activation and infiltration into the tumor when the bacteria were orally applied. By translating this approach into the clinic, Recolony aims to circumvent the problem of current immunotherapies, by which tumors with low immune cell infiltration cannot be effectively treated.
With the support of Wyss Zurich, the Recolony team aims to develop a live biotherapeutic product based on proprietary bacterial strains and to conduct a Phase I clinical trial targeting colorectal cancer. The team plans to produce the bacteria in lyophilized form packed in pH-resistant capsules and to obtain regulatory approval for the first-in-human trial. Recolony’s goal is to shift the paradigm of cancer treatment away from single-target drugs towards a gut microbiota guided activation of the immune system.
UZH Entrepreneur Fellowship
SNSF and InnoSuisse BRIDGE programme
USZ Health Innovation Hub
University Hospital Zurich
Pharmabiotic Research Institute
Ana Montalban-Arques joined Wyss Zurich in April 2022 as Project Leader for Recolony. She holds a PhD in Molecular Medicine from the Medical University of Graz (Austria) and a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Murcia (Spain). In 2018 she joined the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Hospital Zurich and the University of Zurich, where she has been developing the Recolony project as a postdoctoral scientist from the outset. With this project, Ana has been awarded with the Entrepreneur fellowship from the University of Zurich and with the BRIDGE Proof of Concept Fellowship from the SNF and InnoSuisse. Ana has been focusing in the study of host-microbial interactions in the gut since 2011, a topic she feels passionate about. As Project Leader of Recolony she is responsible for leading the team that is developing a bacteria-based therapy for colorectal cancer.
Head of Business Development
Philipp Busenhart joined Wyss Zurich in April 2022. After his Master’s at the University of Zurich, Philipp gained further research experience in an internship at the oncology department of the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, where he tested the efficacy of novel small-molecule compounds as cancer treatments. Following this insight into the big pharma world, he went back to academic research and performed his PhD studies in cancer biology at the University of Zurich. He was involved early on in scientific activities of the Recolony project, such as the isolation of proprietary bacterial strains. Now, as the Head of Business Development of Recolony, he is responsible for managing subcontractors, the patent portfolio and the overall business and strategy development.
Head of R&D
Egle Katkeviciute joined Wyss Zurich in April 2022 as a head of R&D for Recolony. She has an integrated Master's degree in Biochemistry from University of Glasgow with the industrial placement performed at MedImmune. In addition, Egle obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Zurich in 2021. This combined academic and industrial research background provides a round-up knowledge perfect for her current position in the Recolony project. She is responsible for the setup and execution of all R&D experiments. Additionally, Egle is coordinating all research activities required to complete the preclinical phase of bacteria-based treatments towards the First-in-Human clinical trials. Finally, she is in charge of discovery of new potential scientific avenues, expanding the existent pipeline.