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Female-led British biotech raises £2.4M to develop ‘smart bomb’ like drugs to kill cancer cells


Spirea Limited, a Cambridge-based startup working to develop a new generation of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) treatments, has raised £2.4M in funding from high-profile UK and US investors. 

‘Smart bomb’ directed to cancer cells

The funds will be used to launch Spirea’s pipeline of superior and differentiated ADCs for the treatment of solid tumours, where there is a significant unmet need.

Spirea‘s technique provides for a larger drug-to-antibody ratio, which implies more medicine is delivered to the cancer cell. This enables the generation of stable and customised ADCs containing a wide range of pharmacological payloads with varying potencies and modes of action. As a result, cancer treatments with dramatically improved efficacy and safety profiles will be developed.

ADCs combine a cytotoxic drug’s cell-killing power with a monoclonal antibody’s cancer-targeting capabilities. Despite the fact that the ADC idea has been demonstrated with approved drugs, many ADC programmes have failed in clinical development because of dose-limiting toxicities, limited efficacy, and limits in the range of tumours that can be treated.

Spirea was formed by Dr. Myriam Ouberai (Chief Executive Officer) as a result of her study at the University of Cambridge’s Nanoscience Centre. Myriam has worked in both academia and industry in the field of biopharmaceuticals. 

Tech at play

Spirea has created a novel and flexible strategy to develop ADCs that allows for more drug payload to be directed exactly to the target tumour cell. As a result, therapeutic impact is increased while devastating side effects are significantly reduced. Spirea’s technology will open a new generation of accessible, potent, and well-tolerated medications for the treatment of a wide spectrum of cancers by delivering the right quantity of the right drug to the right cells.

Spirea plans to employ its technology to develop a pipeline of proprietary and co-developed ADC medicines. In addition to developing its own pharmaceuticals, the company intends to work with partners on new projects and revive pre-existing preclinical and clinical-stage assets that have failed due to a restricted therapeutic index.

Dr Myriam Ouberai, Chief Executive Officer at Spirea, commented, “We welcome our new investors and thank our existing investors for their continuing confidence in Spirea. With our novel approach to building ADC therapeutics, we aim to radically improve the treatment options for patients with hard-to-treat cancers. Having shown the flexibility and strength of our technology, we look forward to the next exciting stage in the development of Spirea’s ADC pipeline and to building significant strategic partnerships.” 

Dr Christine Martin, Head of Seed Funds at Cambridge Enterprise, said, “This is an exciting time for Spirea and we are pleased to be supporting them with this further investment. Spirea’s innovative antibody drug conjugate technology is highly differentiated, and we believe it holds great value and potential to lead developments in the field of cancer therapeutics.” 

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