Synaffix has developed a new technology for targeted anti-cancer therapy. Specifically, Synaffix has improved the therapeutic window of an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC), which has been tested by NTRC. The assignment is based on a voucher provided by Pivot Park. Floris van Delft (Synaffix) and Guido Zaman (NTRC) tell us what this means.

“Antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs, are, put simply, targeted cancer drugs. They are complex molecules, consisting of an antibody linked to a cytotoxin, an active anti-cancer component,” explains Van Delft. Van Delft has been involved with Synaffix from the start in 2010, where he is responsible for the scientific ins and outs of the company as CSO. Prior to that he was an associate professor at Radboud University, where he specialised in protein conjugates using click chemistry. Synaffix profiles itself as a technological platform for the development of ADCs. “At Synaffix we are working on improving ADCs. We have a number of techniques in house to make these ADCs more stable and effective and to reduce side effects. We do not develop ADCs ourselves: pharmaceutical companies can license our patents to perfect and further develop their ADCs. For example, recently the companies Mersana Therapeutics (US) and Shanghai Miracogen (China) have licensed Synaffix technology and the first patient was dosed in clinical study of an ADC made with Synaffix technology under the auspices of ADC Therapeutics.” Synafix currently employs thirteen people: eight work in the laboratory while five are responsible for the management.

The Synaffix assignment to NTRC consisted of NTRC testing an ADC for Synaffix. Guido Zaman, managing director and head of the biology department of NTRC: “NTRC has a hybrid business model. We have our own research projects and offer our technology platforms to other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. NTRC currently employs about twenty people. We develop and test candidate drugs, both for ourselves and for third parties. In the latter case, the results of our tests become the property of the customer. For Synaffix, we tested the effectiveness of an ADC that they had modified.”

The collaboration between NTRC and Synaffix is the result of a voucher, encouragement in the form of a sum of money, provided by Pivot Park to companies on the park that work together. Zaman: “In general, the companies at Pivot Park look beyond the park itself, but of course there are also potential customers here. Such a voucher is an initial introduction, a trigger to do something together.” NTRC has carried out three assignments in the context of vouchers. The vouchers are intended to strengthen the infrastructure of Pivot Park. “By working together, we can join forces. And that has an effect,” says Zaman. “Pivot Park is highly visible worldwide as a successful life sciences park.” Van Delft complements this: “Oss has come through the crisis in the pharmaceutical industry very well. It can compete with similar life science parks in Boston and San Francisco.” This crisis (2008-2012) was caused by the fact that large pharmaceutical companies no longer wanted to invest in research. R&D departments were divested everywhere, MSD/Organon in Oss being one. “Ultimately, this led to the creation of a large number of smaller pharmaceutical companies that carry out high-quality research. The structure has changed considerably. Small, modern companies that can easily respond to developments.” NTRC has its roots in MDS/Organon. So it was logical that the company should remain at Pivot Park. For Synaffix, that’s a little bit different. Van Delft: “Synaffix is a spin-off of Radboud University. We felt the need to be in a pharmaceutical environment. In 2013 – at which point we had been around for three years – we moved here. At Pivot Park the infrastructure and facilities are very good. And not only that, other important scientific centres in the Netherlands that we frequently collaborate with, such as Radboud UMC and Leiden University, are just a stone’s throw away. It makes Pivot Park a very attractive location for our company.”