How KIT founders Alexandra Matzke and Matthias Klaften want to help patients with pancreatic cancer.
Wine science is a science in itself. However, other disciplines have something in common with pressing really good wine - it takes time, patience, and know-how. Two former KIT employees have combined these three qualities with another one: Willingness to take risks. As founders of the start-up company amcure, Alexandra Matzke and Matthias Klaften have a pharmacological hopeful in their hands. In eight years, it is supposed to unfold its effect as an active ingredient.
Until an active ingredient becomes a drug, at least as many unpredictable events can occur as in vine breeding. Admittedly, severe winters, wet summers and pest infestations are not a problem in the laboratory. The hurdles, however, are in clinical trials to prove the drug's efficacy and tolerability. The situation is similar when it comes to founding a company: "As a young company from the scientific community, we face major challenges," says Matthias Klaften, who founded amcure together with his colleague Matzke and other KIT scientists at the end of 2011.
The discovery matured in the laboratory for six years until Matzke and Klaften ventured into their own company. While there is currently no effective drug treatment for the highly lethal pancreatic cancer, the AM001 discovered by Matzke shows properties that give cause for hope. What is special about the drug approach is that, while it damages tumor cells and even leads to regression of metastases in tests conducted to date, it does not attack healthy tissue, as is common with chemotherapy. "The road from outstanding results in the lab to a 'pill against cancer' is long and - as with all pharmacological developments - fraught with the risk of never actually becoming a drug," says founder Matzke.
"The chance to treat disease with AM001 only comes around once. We would have been ignorant not to take advantage of this opportunity to help people."
Nevertheless, the foundation itself also had to mature. The founding idea, team building, business model, search for investors - a growth process that takes much longer than the wine year from pruning to harvest. For Matzke and Klaften, learning is to founding a company as red wine is to cheese: "No wine is perfect right away, and no company set-up or active ingredient development is complete without a learning process.
Nevertheless, both are convinced that the lengthy development process is worthwhile, as Matthias Klaften says: "Drugs that are on the market today were discovered at least ten years ago. We believe that our active ingredient will be one of the standard drugs for cancer therapy in 2020."