In portrait | Ariceum - Targeting and eliminating cancer cells

The Berlin-based company Ariceum Therapeutics is focusing on radiopharmaceuticals in its fight against difficult-to-treat cancers. It is planned that corresponding products will be brought into registration or approved in 2028. Ariceum is well on the way to achieving this goal, as it has been able to find financially strong partners and investors who will enable it to continue its development, which has already progressed.

Radiation therapy is still one of the methods of choice when it comes to fighting cancer cells. “The problem with this external approach is that it only catches a few larger solid tumors that can be palpated or located visually,” says Manfred Rüdiger, CEO at Ariceum. “You don’t catch the very small metastases or cell clumps that way.”  

Go directly to the tumor cells 

Instead of irradiating from the outside, the products from Ariceum aim to deliver radiotherapy and radiation directly to cancer cells. “Put simply, it works as follows,” says Rüdiger. “We are developing a molecule to which we attach radioactive emitters and which we administer intravenously. Due to the surface structure, this molecule finds the tumor cells in the body, settles on them and kills them. We are initially focusing on small cell lung cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.”  

Compared to conventional radiation therapy, the technology has two major advantages, according to Rüdiger: On the one hand, almost exclusively the tumor is killed and hardly any surrounding healthy cells. And on the other hand, tiny tumor cells that are otherwise not visible and detectable are also reached in this way. Radiopharmaceuticals therefore have a dual role – they are diagnostic or therapeutic agents, depending on the emitter or isotope used.  

The approach with radiopharmaceuticals is not completely new. Novartis now has two approved therapeutics that are already being used successfully against slow-growing tumors. Even Ariceum – the name is an anagram of two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie – did not start from scratch when it was founded in 2021. “We bought the product from Ipsen Pharma at the development stage with all the rights at the time and set up with the mission of developing the molecule further.”  

Numerous investors and partners 

Rüdiger, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry, has been heavily involved in the company since its founding and his appointment as managing director: He forms partnerships, raises investor funds, gives talks and brings in new experts. All of this is obviously successful, because the list of collaborations is long: Ariceum entered into a manufacturing and supply partnership with AmbioPharm in October 2022, a research collaboration with biopharmaceutical company UCB was announced in May this year, private biotech company Theragnostics was acquired in June, and to support clinical trials, Ariceum has been working with service provider Eurofins CDMO since late June. In addition, there are two commercial partnerships with Novartis and GE Health. 

In addition to the shareholder Ipsen Pharma, investors on board include EQT Life Sciences (formerly LSP), HealthCap, Pureos Bioventures, Andera Partners and Earlybird Venture Capital. In April, it was announced that after a first financing round (Series A) of 25 million Euro, a second round of 22.75 million Euro was successfully completed. Ariceum needs the money for further research and development and, above all, to finance the approval of the drug. Ariceum already has income from its commercial partnership with GE Health. However, this is not sufficient to finance large development programs. Rüdiger explains the current status “We have now included a first patient in the study for small cell lung cancer”. “We expect to be able to get our product approved in 2028.”  

Future focus: Further development of the product 

Rüdiger leaves open whether Ariceum will then be sold to a large pharmaceutical company again, or whether it will eventually go public: “For now, we want to focus on generating data and developing the product,” he says. “Of course, the big companies have more money in the background and can, for example, set up supply chains more quickly. But in the small companies, the necessary decisions can be made much more quickly, and that’s where the innovations take place.” 

Ariceum currently employs 20 people. “Some of them work from Switzerland, since we have taken on some colleagues from other pharmaceutical companies there,” says Rüdiger. “The other people research and work at the headquarters in Berlin-Buch – a good location, as there is a lot of good research here and, not least, many good funding opportunities, such as support from Berlin Partner.”  

Related links: