Industry: Pharmaceutical cancer treatment
Athna Biotech specializes in developing novel nanotherapeutics for cancer. Their research in sodium chloride nanoparticles (SCNPs) addresses an underserved niche: early-stage bladder cancer, also known as non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer, which accounts for 79% of new cases.
The widely accepted treatment for patients with intermediate and high risk involves surgery followed by a bacterial vaccine (BCG). However, many patients don’t respond to the vaccine or have morbidities which limit its use. Additionally, BCG is in major shortage worldwide and production is limited.
The SCNPs developed by Athna Biotech accurately target cancer cells, causing them to disintegrate and releasing tumor antigens as well as damage-associated molecular pattern molecules. These molecules help recruit dendritic cells, which leads to antigen-specific immunity. Because SCNPs are derived from a benign electrolyte, the side effects are minimal.
Athna’s development addresses a gap in the market that BCG seems unable to fill. The global urothelial cancer drug market was valued at $855 million in 2017; it is expected to reach $3.6 billion by 2023.
Athna is on track to compete for the NCI Experimental Therapeutics (NExT) program, bringing their drug closer to clinical use.