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Success story article7 August 2023

The Centre for Proteomics: pioneering research and international collaborations with the Enterprise Europe Network’s support


In the heart of Croatia, the Centre for Proteomics embarked on a pioneering mission to develop cutting-edge monoclonal antibodies for proteome analysis and cancer immunotherapy. Fuelled by a unique blend of expertise in immunology and funded by international grants, the Centre forged a transformative alliance with the Enterprise Europe Network. With unwavering support from the Network, the Centre secured vital investments, accessed EU funding, forged a distribution agreement with global antibody suppliers and, together with Faculty of Medicine University of Rijeka and long-lasting scientific collaborators from University of Jerusalem, Israel, co-founded Nectin Therapeutics Ltd.

In 2006, the Centre for Proteomics at the University of Rijeka Faculty of Medicine in Croatia was established with a unique focus on developing cutting-edge monoclonal antibodies (mAb - an antibody produced from a cell lineage made by hybridoma technology, a method for producing large numbers of identical antibodies) for proteome analysis (analysis of the entire set of proteins expressed by a genome, cell, or tissue). Although the Centre is part of the University of Rijeka Faculty of Medicine, its funding primarily relied on competitive international grants and commercial activities, setting it apart as an exceptional research department in the Croatian academic landscape.

A collaborative approach: embracing support from Enterprise Europe Network

Since 2014, the Centre for Proteomics has been reaping the benefits of its partnership with the Enterprise Europe Network partners in Croatia. Recognising the potential for further growth, the Centre sought the Network's advisory and partnering support to secure finances for their ongoing research endeavours. Network advisers identified two key objectives: exploring new foreign markets and accessing EU funding. Armed with their guidance, the Centre embarked on an inspiring journey of collaboration and success.

Innovation takes flight: co-founding Nectin Therapeutics Ltd.

In 2017, the Centre for Proteomics co-founded Nectin Therapeutics Ltd. (NectinTx), a biotech company focused on unlocking the power of the immune system by developing a collection of next-gen immunotherapy agents. This was done in Jerusalem, Israel, in collaboration with Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Yissum, its technology transfer company. The establishment of NectinTx was a testament to the joint discoveries of Croatian and Israeli scientists, with the Centre exclusively licensing the intellectual property to the newly founded biotechnology spin-off.

Fostering growth: Enterprise Europe Network facilitates investment for NectinTx

As NectinTx set its sights on ground-breaking cancer therapies, the Enterprise Europe Network continued to accompany them in their growth journey. With an initial investment from Integra Holdings, NectinTx received a substantial boost in 2020 when aMoon, Israel's largest life sciences venture fund, invested USD 6 million in the company. The momentum was further reinforced by reaching target milestones, paving the way for further investments. The Network's advisory support ensured smooth execution of crucial documents, leading to successful milestone closures. Recently, the company has completed a $25 million Series A financing round led several existing investors that will be used to support the ongoing clinical evaluation of Nectin's PVR blocker, NTX1088, and to further advance the company's pipeline of targeted immunotherapies.

Seizing EU funding opportunities: GlioNecCAR Grant application

The year 2021 brought another milestone as the Centre for Proteomics sought the Network's assistance in preparing a proposal application for the highly competitive call, EIC Pathfinder Challenges 2021 under Horizon Europe. With collaborative efforts and guidance from Network partners, the Centre successfully submitted the grant application. This was just one of the many instances of EU funding advisory services provided to the Centre, underscoring the Network's commitment to nurturing research and innovation.

Expanding horizons: a transformative distribution agreement

Simultaneously, Network advisers were persistently working to identify suitable partners for distributing the Centre's monoclonal antibodies on foreign markets. In November 2021, the Network introduced the Centre for Proteomics to Biorbyt Ltd., a UK-based global supplier seeking new partnerships for novel reagents. Through the Network's matchmaking efforts, the Centre and Biorbyt Ltd. signed a non-exclusive distribution agreement in February 2022, paving the way for expanded sales opportunities.

A testimony to success: acknowledging the role of Enterprise Europe Network

The Centre for Proteomics' success story stands as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration, innovation, and support from the Enterprise Europe Network. From accessing EU funding to forging international partnerships and securing vital investments, the Network's guidance played an important role in the Centre’s remarkable journey. Dr. Stipan Jonjić, Chair of the Centre for Proteomics, acknowledged the role of Network, saying, "Thanks to the Enterprise Europe Network, I learned about this opportunity to get in contact with the potential distributor of our monoclonal antibodies. Advisers from local Network contact point STEP RI connected us with Biorbyt Ltd, and this introduction eventually resulted in signing the distribution agreement, which will hopefully lead to an increase in sales of our products." The Centre’s remarkable achievements continue to inspire and set a shining example of how collaborative efforts and visionary support can drive research and innovation forward.

Updates: embracing a bright future

As a result of the Centre’s successful collaborations and the Network's unwavering support, NectinTx received USD 9 million in investment from aMoon, and the distribution agreement with Biorbyt Ltd. holds great promise for the Centre’s future growth. As the impact of these endeavours unfolds, it is clear that the Centre for Proteomics, with the Network's guidance, will continue to thrive in delivering cutting-edge solutions to combat cancer and drive advancements in proteome analysis.