Torqur AG is a platform for the discovery and efficient development of innovative anti-cancer therapies targeting the metabolic PI3K/mTOR intracellular signaling pathway. Torqur was launched in 2021 as a subsidiary of Swiss Rockets AG, a Basel-based incubator and accelerator of start-up companies in oncology and infectious diseases. The company’s leading drug candidate is bimiralisib.
A recent clinical study published in The Oncologist found promising results for treating a specific type of head and neck cancer called NOTCH1-mutant HNSCC. The researchers tested Torqur’s drug bimiralisib, which inhibits a certain pathway involved in cancer cell growth, called the PI3K/mTOR pathway. They reported that bimiralisib caused NOTCH1-mutant HNSCC cells to undergo apoptosis, which leads to cell death.
The study involved eight patients who had NOTCH1-mutant HNSCC that had already progressed despite chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The patients were given bimiralisib until their cancer worsened too much or until they experienced severe side effects. The researchers assessed the effectiveness of the treatment by measuring levels of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and by looking at a protein called cleaved NOTCH1 (cl-NOTCH) in tumor tissue samples. They found that most of the patients had NOTCH1 mutations in their ctDNA, but cl-NOTCH1 staining in tumor tissue was negative. The study was led by a team of researchers from various institutions, with Prof. Dr. Faye Johnson from the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas as the lead author. The findings suggest that bimiralisib could be a promising treatment option for patients with NOTCH1-mutant HNSCC neck cancer.
The study found that bimiralisib had an objective response rate of 17%, meaning it showed a positive response in reducing the size of the cancer in some patients. The median progression-free survival, or the length of time patients' cancer did not get worse, was five months, and overall survival, or how long patients lived, was 7 months for all eight patients. Bimiralisib was generally well tolerated, although some patients experienced high blood sugar levels. Prof. Dr. Faye Johnson at MD Anderson Cancer Center concluded on the study's results: "Although the trial was small, outcomes with bimiralisib were better than the historical standard of care. Results will need to be confirmed in a larger trial. The lack of cl-NOTCH1 was consistent with loss-of-function mutations and validated our mutation function algorithm. The ability to detect NOTCH1 mutations in blood will help future studies."
Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic, CEO of Torqur AG and CEO of Swiss Rockets AG, explains: “The findings of this study have important implications for the treatment of this type of head and neck cancer and could lead to the development of more effective therapies. Further research is needed to confirm these results and explore the potential of bimiralisib as a treatment option.”
About Torqur AG
Torqur AG is a Swiss clinical-stage biotech company launched in 2021 as a subsidiary of Swiss Rockets AG, a Basel-based incubator and accelerator of start-up companies in oncology and infectious diseases. Torqur AG is committed to providing next-generation potent PI3K/mTOR inhibitors for targeted cancer therapies to support patients' quality of life and extended survival. With the company’s know-how, extensive drug development experience, and a broad network of internationally recognized experts and partners, Torqur believes it can deliver the best treatment and most promising outcomes to patients.
About Swiss Rockets AG
Founded in 2018, Swiss Rockets AG is implementing a paradigm shift in healthcare. Patients benefit from new therapies developed with innovative and pioneering methods. The Swiss Rockets AG team combines expertise and experience to create innovative medicines focused on cancer and viral diseases.
The founders of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, Manuel Ebner, Dr. Thomas Sander and Dr. Thomas Staehelin. Vladimir Cmiljanovic is the CEO, a medicinal chemist, and an entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in cancer drug development. He is the founder of the Swiss biotech companies PIQUR AG, TargImmune AG, Swiss Rockets AG, Rocketvax AG and Torqur AG. With his sister Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, the Chief Scientific Officer of Swiss Rockets AG, he has developed cancer drugs at the University of Basel. He has also founded and managed several biotech companies. Manuel Ebner is a Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Switzerland, and a strategic advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Sander, one of the first employees of the biotech company Actelion, is a scientific advisor to Swiss Rockets AG. Dr. Thomas Staehelin, the co-founder of Swiss Rockets AG, is a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of several shareholder companies and foundations.
Members of the Board of Directors of Swiss Rockets AG are Dr. Vladimir Cmiljanovic (Chairman), Prof. Dr. Michael N. Hall, a renowned researcher and professor at the Center for Molecular Biosciences at the University of Basel, Dr. Natasa Cmiljanovic, a medicinal chemist and clinical scientist with experience in the development of cancer drugs, Dr. Thomas Ladner, a business lawyer, founder and co-founder of several successful start-ups and the World.Minds Foundation, André Debrunner, a financial expert and fund manager at Northern Trust Switzerland AG, and Christoph Brutschin, former Government Council of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and former Chair of the Canton’s Conference for economic affairs.