Preclinical cancer drug development is a topline priority for the Netherlands, and the €325 million ($351 million) that it plans to funnel through the Dutch National Growth Fund (DNGF) will enable specialist capabilities to help biotechs accelerate oncology candidate development.
Approximately half of the money has been committed upfront; the remaining total will be paid conditionally. The DNGF’s officials consider this cause a fitting use of the funding, pointing to the better outcome potential for mitigating attrition rates in the clinic.
Aiming for an overhaul of cancer drug development attitudes, the Oncode-PACT project joins together researchers from various organizations. Two researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, Lodewyk Wessels and John Haanen, are leading workstreams for cell/gene therapies and AI, respectively. Also in the consortium is Utrecht University Professor Albert Heck, who will helm a working group on therapeutic vaccines. Sweden and Netherlands-based biotech Immunicum will also be on hand to leverage its dendritic cell biology expertise.
“In the current situation, the preclinical development process is still insufficiently connected with the clinical practice, and we focus on the patient too late in the drug development process,” said Oncode-PACT Chairman Alain Kummer. “By deploying patient data and tissues from patients early in the development process – for example organoid technology and artificial intelligence – it is possible to assess whether a potential drug could be effective and safe much earlier in the process than is currently possible, and with greater certainty.”