Research sprouts well-financed biotech start-up – University of Copenhagen

Research sprouts well-financed biotech start-up


Biotech, obesity and diabetes


Alexander Hovard Sparre-Ulrich, Jens Juul Holst, Mette Marie Rosenkilde, Maria Buur Nordskov Gabe, Lærke Smidt Gasbjerg, m.fl.

Collaboration partners:

Antag Therapeutics, Novo Seeds


Well-financed biotech start-up with significant potential

The Story:

The University of Copenhagen is home to some of the world's leading researchers in the field of diabetes and obesity. Their insight has helped to form the basis for some of the medicinal products that Novo Nordisk and other company’s manufactures for the growing share of the world's population, who are diagnosed with diabetes.

Antag Therapeutics is a spin-out biotech company with the potential to follow in the footsteps of biotech’s major successes. Based on research from the University of Copenhagen the company developing a new effective drug against diabetes, obesity and obesity-related diseases of the liver.

In 2017 Antag Therapeutics received DKK 20 million in funding from the investment fund Novo Holdings. Antag Therapeutics will use that funding for animal studies which will hopefully lead to clinical trials in humans.

Sprouted from university research

The research which Antag Therapeutics has sprouted from is performed on Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences in Professor Jens Juul Holst's research group at the Novo Nordisk centre for Basic Metabolic Research, the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Mette Roskilde's research group at the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Researchers have found a promising modulator of the GIP hormone, which could potentially be used in patients with diabetes and obesity. GIP hormone involved in building fat and regulating blood sugar levels in the diabetic state.

Alexander Hovard Sparre-Ulrich"The UCPH-research is the foundation for our continued work with GIP. The opportunity to take that research and move towards application and, hopefully, in the long term a medicinal product, is the core of our business," says Alexander Sparre-Ulrich, who is the CEO of Antag Therapeutics, and wrote his phd in connection with research into GIP.

When a significant potential in basic research is to be moved in the direction of producing new drugs, the first step toward establishing a spin-out company. In this way a seed planted, which hopefully can grow and bear fruit. Peter Stein Nielsen, Commercial Officer from the Tech Transfer Office explains:

"It is a classic way moving research towards application. Under the auspices of Copenhagen Spin-outs, we establish a company, Antag Therapeutics, which enters into licensing agreement to utilise the invention commercially for the development of a product - in this case a medicinal product."

According to Alexander Sparre-Ulrich process of drafting the licensing agreement been exciting, comprehensive and very educational.

"This kind of agreement contains many aspects that need to be negotiated, and both parties are obliged to work for the best possible conditions for their respective organisation. So it takes time, but now we have a clear agreement, which enables us to move forwards in unity."

Growth continues in familiar surroundings

Even though the work to develop a GIP-based drug now continues at Antag Therapeutics, the collaboration with the university's research environments continue. An agreement which lets the spin-out company maintain offices at Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and access to some of the versatile research facilities, ensure that the seeds can keep growring in the university's fertile soil.

"It would be a great challenge for us as newly established company to continue the work on its own. It is a huge advantage that we have been given the possibility of renting premises the surroundings, where the research takes place, and benefit from the infrastructure as well as academic competencies in the research environments at the university," says Alexander Sparre-Ulrich

But Antag Therapeutics are not the only ones who benefit, Peter Stein Nielsen emphasizes.
"In addition giving them a better chance of reaching their goal, which we are all interested in, it is serves as positive inspiration for the university's young researchers to see former colleagues try their hands at a career as an entrepreneur. In that way, Antag Therapeutics continued affiliation with UCPH benefits everyone." he says.