Spin-off creation

THERAtRAME : Artificial intelligence to fight cancer

THERAtRAME SA has closed its first financing round of €4.5M to support the discovery and development of novel tRNA epitranscriptomics based cancer drugs through its AI-driven drug discovery platform. This financial round includes €2.5M of equity from the interuniversity fund QBIC3, the public institutional funds NOSHAQ and S.R.I.W., the University of Liège through its technology transfer and investment company, Gesval SA, alongside a group of angel investors. A subsidy of €2.0M from the Walloon Region completes this financing round.

A unique and new approach to expand the cancer target space

THERAtRAME, incubated at the Belgian start-up accelerator VentureLab since 2020, was founded based on new insights in tRNA epitranscriptomics resulting from over a decade of fundamental research in the laboratories of Professors Dr. Alain Chariot, Dr. Francesca Rapino and Dr. Pierre Close at the GIGA Institute (ULiège) and WELBIO. Their work has revealed that cancer cells seize control of the protein synthesis process by making specific modifications in the tRNA, an essential component of the protein translation machinery, to support the cells’ rapid growth, metastasis and resistance against existing drugs. This new discovery exposes previously underexplored vulnerabilities in cancer that are now being targeted by THERAtRAME’s drug discovery platform to develop first-in-class small molecule therapeutics to address the high unmet medical needs in cancer treatment. In addition, THERAtRAME leverages its proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to discover new unpredicted key players in cancer development and to identify the most promising oncology indications for clinical studies.

The founders

The founders, Dr. Pierre Close and Dr. Francesca Rapino, are both WELBIO Principal Investigators at the GIGA Biomedical Research Institute (ULiège), Foundation against Cancer laureates and, respectively, FNRS Senior research associate and FNRS Research associate. Pierre Close is the principal investigator of the Laboratory of Cancer Signaling. The work of his laboratory focuses on elucidating the mechanisms underlying cancer development through changes in proteome expression and mRNA translation via tRNA regulation. Francesca Rapino, as head of the Laboratory of Cancer Stemness, investigates the role of tRNA in cancer stem cells and cellular differentiation and is awardee of the competitive European Research Council (ERC) starting grant. Pierre Close and Francesca Rapino will join THERAtRAME as Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively.

The team

THERAtRAME also announces the appointment of Dr. Marc Zabeau as its independent Chairman of the board of directors and Mr. Ching Man Choi as Chief Executive Officer. Marc Zabeau is a seasoned biotech investor and entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in biotech venture creations. He has founded several biotech companies including Helix, KeyGene, GenScope and Methexis. Ching Man Choi brings 15 years of experience in biotech financing, corporate development and biomedical research. Prior to joining THERAtRAME, Mr. Choi held Investor Relations and Business Development positions at the Euronext listed cell therapy specialist, Bone Therapeutics.


Source : Press release ULiège

Photo by : ULiège (Ching Man Choi, Francesca Rapino, Pierre Close)

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