Ankrin Therapeutics joins the four life science start-ups in BioInnovation Institute’s incubator program Creation House. During the 18 months long program, the company will relocate to BioInnovation Institute in Copenhagen to work at the institute’s state of the art labs and office space surrounded by other start-ups.
Besides a global network, business development and infrastructure at BII, Ankrin has been awarded a founder-friendly convertible loan of DKK 10M. With this, BioInnovation Institute, a Novo Nordisk Foundation initiative, has awarded a total of DKK 67.5M to life science entrepreneurs in 2018.
The science behind Ankrin Therapeutics comes from the research group of Professor Anja Groth at University of Copenhagen. She holds the position as CSO and co-founded the company with Thomas M. Frimurer who brings 15+ years of experience with structure-based chemical design technologies.
We asked Anja Groth a few questions about the company.
What do you work with in Ankrin Therapeutics?
We are trying to develop a new type of treatment for cancer patients by exploiting inherent DNA repair dependencies. We are developing inhibitors against essential protein-protein interactions required for homologous recombination repair of toxic DNA lesions and our drug discovery pipeline combines both structure-based drug design and high-throughput screening strategies.
We named the company Ankrin because we work with proteins that have Ankyrin repeat domains.
Which considerations did you have around commercializing research?
I am and was working with basic research when I made the discovery and to be honest, I was a little hesitant about it because it was obvious that this kind drug discovery endeavor would require a huge investment. But I was convinced because of the huge potential and the opportunity to benefit patients, create jobs and to give back to the society that has invested so much in science. It is very exciting to be part of.
What were your next steps?
When Thomas M. Frimurer and I founded the company, we quickly realized that it was super important to bring knowledge of business development and entrepreneurship into the company. It takes a lot of work and it is difficult to be full time in academia and run a start-up on the side. Through our network, we came in contact with Ulrik Sørensen who is now our part-time CEO while maintaining his position as COO and co-founder of Acesion Pharma. He also brought Ankrin’s first full-time employee, Rafel Simó Vicens, into the team, who is based in BII and will drive and coordinate the research activities of our program.
What attracted you to the Creation House program?
I know people in my field who have benefitted from being part of international incubator programs, so I was very interested when I learned that BioInnovation Institute would offer the Creation House program in Denmark. At the very early-stage Ankrin is at, it is difficult to bring in investors, and we cannot find the same infrastructure, expertise and network under one roof as we can here at BII. Everything is very new to us, but we are already beginning to understand what the entrepreneurial environment at BII can bring us.
What do you expect from the 18 months program?
During the program, we expect to develop a compound series from which we can identify a drug candidate. That means we have a lot of work to do and our goal is to progress and deliver the results that can secure our next round of funding.