The Gate2Brain-4-Cancer project "Crossing the blood-brain barrier to treat childhood brain cancer", linked to the innovations of the Gate2Brain spin-off, has been awarded a prize in the "la Caixa"Foundation's CaixaResearch Consolidate 2021 call for proposals. Thanks to this grant, the "la Caixa" Foundation will help Gate2Brain's innovations to progress and reach society, with the ultimate goal of improving the health and quality of life of children with brain tumours such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
DIPG is the most serious brain cancer and affects approximately two in every million children. Currently, there is no cure or effective treatment for this disease, and the average survival is only 8-11 months after diagnosis.
While certain drugs have demonstrated potent anti-tumour activity against DIPG in vitro, all have failed in clinical trials because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to reach the tumour. The BBB is a protective barrier of cells that only allows certain molecules from circulating blood to enter the central nervous system, and prevents the entry of pathogens and other substances.
The Gate2Brain spin-off has designed a shuttle peptide that can transport drugs across the BBB to treat DIPG or other brain diseases. It aims to carry out preclinical validation of the new drug G2B-002. Gate2Brain's shuttle peptides can be adapted to a wide variety of molecules, demonstrating the enormous potential of this platform to treat a variety of brain diseases.
"Man has always dreamed of reaching outer space, but also the inside of our brain, here at Gate2Brain we dream of helping drugs reach the brain and thus be able to treat childhood brain tumours such as DIPG" says Dr Meritxell Teixidó, the company's CEO.
Gate2Brain was founded in 2020 by Meritxell Teixidó, with the participation of the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital, the Sant Joan de Déu Foundation (SJD), the Barcelona Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the University of Barcelona (UB). The business project received support from the Botín Foundation's Mind the Gap programme to set up the company, with an investment of 500,000 euros and accompaniment with the incorporation of an expert to support the entrepreneurial team, and from Banc Sabadell's BStartup Health programme (100,000 euros), shortly after its set-up. The company, located in the Barcelona Science Park, has the collaboration of the Paediatric Cancer Programme of the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute.
More than financial support
In addition to the Gate2Brain project, three other innovative biomedical projects received support from the "la Caixa" Foundation; these are mature projects for which the aim is to help them get closer to commercial investment. These are a Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) project to develop synthetic cells to improve the control of viral infections; a technology from the University of Santiago de Compostela and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), which acts on cancer stem cells to overcome resistance and recurrence; and smart glasses from the University of Murcia to correct serious eye defects.
Beyond the financial support of up to 300,000 euros per project, the researchers receive tailor-made support in areas such as technology transfer, funding tools or negotiations, as well as mentoring from experts who will provide personalised support for defining their development and marketing plans.
The support for these projects comes within the framework of the 2021 CaixaResearch Consolidate call, which promotes the transfer of knowledge and technologies in the field of biomedicine and health, and provides support for the creation of new research-based companies. The call is open all year round, understanding the importance of applicant projects receiving the right funding when they need it.