News items New approach by GlycoTherapeutics

26 April 2023

Nijmegen-based GlycoTherapeutics is developing a new cancer drug. With a Vroegefasefinanciering (VFF) Gelderland, GlycoTherapeutics wants to validate their method and further research their strategy. VFF Gelderland is an instrument for innovative entrepreneurs funded by the province of Gelderland and the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemers (National Agency for Entrepreneurs). Startup supporter Briskr helped the company in the application process. Oost NL manages the fund.

GlycoTherapeutics, spin-off of Radboud University and Radboudumc, focuses on sialic acid and fucose sugars. These sugars are found elevated on the surface of the cell in many types of cancer, and allow the cancer cell to grow rapidly. The sugars are known to help cancer cells bypass the immune system and delay treatment. Current immunotherapies do not act on this and work - in the long run - in less than 50% of cases. GlycoTherapeutics has developed a way to block the production of these sugars.

Early-stage funding for further validation

Johan Pijnenborg, co-founder and CEO is taking advantage of the VFF Gelderland: "The funding allows us to take our idea to the next level. Specifically, we want to demonstrate that we can indeed inhibit the growth of cancer, get a first indication through experiments that the drug is safe and how these products can best be used in the clinic."

Hester Tak, senior investment manager Health at Oost NL. "Because in half of the cases immunotherapy does not have a sustained effect, there is a great medical need for drugs like the ones GlycoTherapeutics is developing. The company fits into the ecosystem of drug development in the Nijmegen region. With VFF Gelderland, in collaboration with Briskr, we can guide these types of start-ups through a difficult initial phase. So that impactful innovations reach the market sooner." VFF Gelderland enables startup entrepreneurs or SMEs to investigate whether their idea has a chance of success, demonstrating proof-of-concept. Gelderland's startup support programs Briskr (Health), Orion (Tech) and StartLife (Food) - in addition to Oost NL - are the counters for VFF.

Better treatment for patients

Preclinical research is initially aimed at showing safety and activity of the drug as proof-of-concept. Then the possibilities will be investigated in combination with regular treatments, such as immunotherapy or chemotherapy. "If everything works, the expectation is that this new class of drugs will be used in combination with immunotherapy or chemotherapy in the clinic and the patient will have better chances of going into remission," Pijnenborg concludes. Much more research is needed before the drugs are actually on the market. It is expected that it could take another five years before the drugs are widely used.


GlycoTherapeutics works closely with the Radboudumc and Radboud University, among others, such as in their KWF Public-Private Partnership and NWO Take-off phase 1 consortia. In addition, the company collaborates with renowned universities and institutes at home and abroad.

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