Jean-Guillaume Lafay created his first company when he was 17. Then he started two more. At the same time, he studied biotechnology but had to stop because his companies were doing well, and he needed to focus on them. When he was 28, he picked his studies up again, this time studying organic chemistry, and four years later, he had a master’s degree in the biological effects of chemical molecules. He spent the next ten years with a biotech company, doing Sales and Marketing. It was at this point that he joined together with Warren Viricel, Prof. Charles Dumontet, and Professor Benoit Joseph to found Mablink Bioscience.
The Creation of Mablink
According to Lafay, it all started with a discovery by Viricel, Mablink’s co-founder, and CSO. Viricel holds a doctorate in pharmacy. In the course of his research at the University of Montreal, he came up with the idea of using the physicochemical principles traditionally employed in the world of biomaterials and biopolymers for targeted therapies. His work with Prof. Charles Dumontet, an oncologist, specialized in hematological malignancies and immunotherapy, confirmed his intuition. They were then joined by Professor Benoit Joseph, an expert in chemistry, and Lafay himself, who brought a solid background and network in the biotechnology sector and entrepreneurship, and Mablink Bioscience was born.
For Lafay, his work with Mablink is all about his love of science and making that science understandable to business people. It’s also about finding the best people for critical roles in the company. He told me that if you can create a strong, competent team then you can have breakthrough innovations. And that’s exactly what is happening with Mablink.
Creating a New Class of Cancer Drugs
Based in France, Mablink specializes in the development of a new class of cancer drugs, Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC). There are a lot of technologies on the market now that help fight cancer, but they are all biological technologies. Mablink wants to bring a new chemical technology to the fight that is quick and efficient, and cost-effective.
Their principle is to use, as an addressing vector, an antibody that specifically recognizes cancer cells. On this antibody, you attach drugs such as chemotherapy compounds. This combination makes it possible to guide the chemotherapy to the cancer cells and spare healthy tissue.
The design of an antibody conjugated to a drug requires expertise in chemistry, pharmacology, and immunology. To be successful, you have to choose the right antibody, the number and nature of the chemotherapy compound (more or less toxic), the linker (which allows these two components to be linked together), and the trigger (which allows the chemotherapy compound to be released once it has reached the cancer cell).
Mablink’s patented ADC platform allows them to design 3rd generation ADCs that are highly loaded with cytotoxic drugs, while at the same time retaining excellent pharmacological properties, to increase the effectiveness of targeted therapies in advanced cancers.
Addressing Challenges in ADC Design
Mablink has two additional, complementary technological innovations:
- Currently marketed ADCs are limited to 2 cytotoxic compounds (chemotherapy) per antibody. Mablink has enabled the ability to attach a higher number (i.e., 8 or 16) of these compounds to the antibody.
- They have also patented the anchoring of a hydrophilic molecule that masks the toxicity and hydrophobicity of the cytotoxic compounds.
These innovations have enabled Mablink to design ADCs with a high therapeutic index (highly effective and low toxicity).
It’s also interesting to point out that Mablink’s approach to ADC’s formulation is chemical: it doesn’t require re-engineering of the antibody, and it’s compatible with large-scale production. While it takes about 10 months to manufacture an ADC with conventional methods, Mablink’s process can be completed successfully in a matter of days. Using Mablink’s patented PSARlink technology platform, Mablink meets the challenge of competitiveness by controlling the time and cost of production of its ADCs.
Mablink is currently in the preclinical phase with two proprietary ADC candidates:
- MBK-101 for the treatment of highly aggressive acute myeloid leukemia (AML) affecting hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow.
- MBK-102 for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune-lymphatic system affecting the head, neck, and gynecological areas.
“The choice we have made for these two ADCs is to work with chemotherapy compounds with moderate cytotoxic activity. The efficacy and toxicity tests performed in the laboratory on preclinical models exceeded our expectations: with a concentration 15 times lower than the gold standard ADCs, we showed in a mouse model that the tumor disappeared in only 20 days. We presented these results at the 10th World ADC Congress in London in March 2020.”
How Agatha Supports Mablink Now and In the Future
Mablink is a young company with a young team that is just getting started with clinical trials. Today, they are in the discovery phase, and they wanted to put in place the right practices for managing clinical trials from the beginning.
With a regulatory preclinical phase scheduled for late 2021, Mablink adopted Agatha to help them prepare for both the preclinical and clinical development phases. Agatha enables Mablink to capture the data needed through documents and forms that will support them as they move through each phase of the clinical trials.
Agatha applications enable them to compile and track all scientific and administrative documentation to ensure they have the desired guarantee of quality for Mablink both from a scientific point of view and in terms of investment funds.
Mablink has three sites: two laboratories and an office. Agatha is a cloud-application making it easy to connect the sites and work efficiently. With all documentation archived properly, it’s very easy to share information with investors and with regulators.
“Agatha is very efficient and simple to use. It’s a good way for us to create the right structure in Mablink.”
According to Lafay, the benefits of using the Agatha solution are twofold:
- It allows the team to work with good practices, to think about the structuring data for improved findability. The modularity of the artifacts and forms allows them to set up real production procedures and carry out in-silico studies quickly.
- To speed up the due-diligence phases during fundraising, they can give VC’s access to Agatha to quickly find the information they need, something that is vital to the continued financing of Mablink’s projects.
Lafay also noted that it’s easy to sync Agatha with its ERP system as well.
“We have a second fundraiser scheduled for September 2021, and to manage the growth of the company, it’s essential to have a good structure in place. We have Agatha for documents and ERP for financial data and managing the project. Both systems work well together and help us greatly.”
The Proof of Mablink’s Efforts
Since its creation at the end of 2018, Mablink has been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions:
- Winner of the OncoStarter CLARA program in 2018
- French Tech Seed label in 2019
- Recipient of the R2B CLARA Award in 2019
- i-Lab Funding Program Winner in 2019
- Winner of the CLARA Proof of Concept Program in 2019
Beyond these achievements, the highlight of 2019 was the contract signed between Mablink Bioscience and an international pharmaceutical company. This partnership is significant because it demonstrates the community’s need for innovation in the field of ADCs and the value of the ADC technology platform developed by Mablink. This partnership also shows the trust that major players have in Mablink technologies and the way the company is run.