Aliper Therapeutics, a spinoff of the IOR, wins the Boldbrain Startup Challenge

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The national jury of the fifth edition of the Boldbrain Startup Challenge awarded first prize to Aliper Therapeutics, a spin-off of the USI-affiliated Institute of Oncology Research (IOR) in Bellinzona. We talked about it with Nicoḷ Pernigoni, postdoc at the IOR.

This is, together with BigOmics Analytics SA and MV BioTherapeutics, the third start-up from the IOR and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) to be awarded a prize by Boldbrain, demonstrating the quality and potential of the research conducted in the two affiliated institutes.

At the heart of Aliper Therapeutics is research conducted at the IOR on the influence of intestinal flora (the so-called microbiota) on the effectiveness of one of the most widely used therapies to treat prostate cancer, androgen deprivation. This therapy, which involves lowering testosterone levels in order to block the growth of cancer cells, has been in use since the 1960s; unfortunately, in a number of patients the treatment ceases to be effective, and the study, published in 2021 in the journal Science, traces this resistance to the bacterial flora as well. In particular, a number of ’bad’ bacteria were identified that, by offsetting the effect of the therapy, keep testosterone levels high. Research has also identified ’good’ bacteria that counteract the activity of the ’bad’ ones. Hence the idea, the basis of the start-up Aliper Therapeutics, to develop a probiotic capable of modifying the patients’ microbiota in order to have an intestinal flora that ensures greater effectiveness of androgen deprivation therapy. 

The spin-off from the IOR, once established, will deal with research and the translation of scientific discoveries from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. An application, explained IOR postdoc Nicoḷ Pernigoni , that, going beyond pure research work, requires a special framework and knowledge that, with the recognition obtained at the Boldbrain Startup Challenge, will now be developed in Ticino thanks to the support, for the protection and management of intellectual property, of USI’s Research and Transfer Service. The next step will be to negotiate a licence agreement on the patent underlying the technology with the spin-off.

Professor Andrea Alimonti , Group Leader of the Molecular Oncology group, and Professor Arianna Calcinotto , Group Leader of the Cancer Immunotherapy group, also worked on the Aliper Therapeutics project.

Boldbrain is the accelerator in Ticino for innovative early-stage start-ups, organised by Fondazione Agire in cooperation with USI Startup Centre.