University of Toronto Mississauga professor, Patrick Gunning, received a $22 million investment from European venture fund firm Medicxi to support Gunning’s cancer research for his co-founded oncology-focused start-up Janpix.

The start-up, partnering with various pioneering academic labs, is working toward developing compounds to target various types of cancer. The focus of the research is on signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins, a group of proteins that regulate certain genes that are linked to uncontrolled cell division.

Increased secretion of these proteins, which are important for controlling the cell cycle in terms of cell production and death, has been found to be an aspect of many kinds of tumors and blood cancers.

With research from the Gunning Group Lab at UTM’s Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, the company is focusing on using small molecule inhibitors to target each protein individually and collectively. In addition to treatment of the tumour, the medicine being advanced may also have the potential to target the niche where it resides. The niche has been found to be heavily impacted by STAT3/ STAT5 proteins that are used to regulate cell proliferation and cell survival. Janpix hopes to be able to bring a drug to clinical trials within 18-24 months.

“Immunotherapy is one of the biggest advances in cancer therapy in recent decades but it doesn’t work in a significant number of patients,” said Roman Fleck, Ph.D., founding CEO of Janpix and an advisor to Medicxi, in a press release about the investment. “By targeting the tumor directly along with its microenvironment we may be able to expand the universe of patients that can benefit from immunotherapies.”

The investment itself has been welcomed by Professor Ulrich Krull, UTM’s principal, for its support in translating academic principles to practical settings to aid patient health, and for bringing national attention to the research opportunities and work being done at UTM.

The Medium reached out to Patrick Gunning for comment but did not receive a response, as of press time.

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