Chemotherapy does not only attack cancer cells, but also healthy tissue, which often causes considerable side effects and severely limits the benefit of this therapy. Dominik Schumacher has found a way to overcome these limits, thanks to what he has become one of the winners of Innovators under 35 Europe 2018.
The method consists in achieving that active chemotherapeutic agents are activated only when they come into contact with a cancer cell. That way their attack on healthy tissues can be avoided. The key to this is the new drugs called Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADC). The problem is that the available ADCs are far below expectations because the connection they generate between the active substance and the antibody is often too unstable. To avoid this instability, Schumacher uses a special enzyme called Tubulin Tyrosine Ligase to produce these kinds of compounds.
The idea occurred to him in 2014 when he was pursuing his PhD in Molecular Pharmacology at the Leibniz Research Institute in Berlin (Germany) together with his research colleague Jonas Helma-Smets. They quickly realized that Tubulin Tyrosine Ligase can produce particularly stable ADCs compared to previous methods. “This prevents active substances from being released into the patient's bloodstream”, explains Schumacher. Currently, they are working on the creation of the start-up Tubulis Technologies with the aim of launching the idea to the market. In the future, their work could produce much more effective therapies to fight cancer.
In the opinion of Carlos Castro, the founder of Leuko and member of jury of the Innovators under 35 Europe 2020, Schumacher stands out for being the main inventor in several patents and very solid publications, for his ability to raise almost 2.4 million euros in funding from the state of Bavaria (Germany) and BM and obtaining the support of interested parties, especially pharmaceutical companies, to carry out pilot studies. For this judge, the solutions of Tubulis are “very simple and highly innovative”, and he considers that Schumacher has made “great discoveries of basic science that open a wide range of new potential applications”.
By Editors of MIT Technology Review in German and Spanish
Translation: Ana Milutinovic