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Aromics, a biotechnology firm led by Carme Plasencia and based in the Barcelona Science Park, has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise €300,000 on the Capital Cell platform, geared towards private investors. The funds will go towards advancing development of a drug candidate to treat malignant mesothelioma, a type of cancer directly related to asbestos exposure.

With the targeted funds, the firm hopes to complete the regulatory pre-clinical phase for the compound and begin phase I and II clinical trials on a complementary diagnostic tool that uses liquid biopsy to classify patients and monitor the efficacy of treatment.

During this process, the firm proposes to reach a licensing or co-development deal for the product with a pharmaceutical company to cover the final steps to market. In fact, there are already several companies that have shown interest, according to a press release from Aromics and the Barcelona Science Park.

At the same time, Aromics also hopes to be granted orphan-drug designation for the compound, known as NAX035, which the company has spent 4 years developing with an investment of nearly €1.4 million, funded by Aromics with partial support from ACCIÓ and the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI).


Response to aggressive form of cancer with few therapeutic options

Malignant mesothelioma is a fairly uncommon cancer that affects the membrane layer that surrounds organs like the lungs, heart, peritoneal cavity and testicles. Most cases are directly related to exposure to asbestos, which is now classified as a human carcinogen but was previously widely used by industry.

Approximately 85-90% of patients with this disease are diagnosed in the advanced stages or present with metastasis, when treatment is mostly palliative. For the rest, treatment includes surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. “The response rate for chemotherapy is low and many patients show no improvement with currently available therapy, which shows the need for more effective treatments,” explains Dr. Carme Plasencia.

The compound Aromics has developed has already been proven effective in reducing the size of tumors in animal models. It bonds directly with messenger RNA, blocking the proteins that are overexpressed in this cancer.

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