iOnctura announces first subject dosed in healthy volunteer study of next generation autotaxin inhibitor IOA-289

Published date:
July 20 2021

iOnctura SA announces the start of clinical development for its second program, a next generation autotaxin inhibitor designated IOA-289.

Founded in 2017 as a spin out from Merck, iOnctura and Cancer Research UK have collaborated on a number of drug targets. The autotaxin inhibitor, IOA-289, was originally designed and synthesised in Cancer Research UK’s Therapeutic Discovery Labs (TDL) which was also closely involved in its early development. From 2017 both iOnctura and TDL collaborated closely on this inhibitor, with Cancer Research UK licensing it to iOnctura in 2019. Since then IOA-289 has successfully progressed through preclinical development and on July 20th iOnctura announced the start of clinical development and dosing of the first healthy volunteer:

Geneva, Switzerland, July 20, 2021: iOnctura SA, a clinical stage oncology company targeting core resistance and relapse mechanisms at the tumor-stroma-immune interface, announces the start of clinical development for its second program, a next generation autotaxin inhibitor designated IOA-289. IOA-289 will be the first autotaxin inhibitor to be investigated in oncology.

The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) has authorized a phase 1a dose-escalation study for IOA-289 in healthy volunteers. The healthy volunteer study prepares the way for a phase 1b trial of IOA-289, which iOnctura plans to conduct in patients with pancreatic cancer. iOnctura’s Phase Ib trial in pancreatic cancer is expected to begin in 2022.

“We are very excited to progress our highly differentiated autotaxin inhibitor, IOA-289, as our second clinical program” said Catherine Pickering, CEO of iOnctura. “This is another significant milestone for iOnctura demonstrating our strong development pipeline and capabilities of our team. We are looking forward to translating the promise demonstrated in our preclinical studies into humans.”

In many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer, high expression of autotaxin and the product it generates (lysophosphatidic acid - LPA) correlate with poor outcomes. IOA-289 has a unique chemistry and has demonstrated promising effects in several preclinical solid tumor models including pancreatic cancer. It has also exhibited greater potency and less toxicity than first-generation autotaxin inhibitors that have until now only been trialed in fibrotic disease indications.

The Phase 1a healthy volunteer study will involve a total of forty volunteers (2 receiving placebo, and 6 actively dosed in each of 5 dose escalation cohorts) and will explore a 10-fold dose-range of IOA-289. Topline data from the study are expected to be available in Q4 2021.

The short preparatory study in healthy volunteers will garner key information on the safety, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of IOA-289 enabling iOnctura to accelerate into a Phase 1b trial in pancreatic cancer.

Correction made on 29.07.21

Notes to editors


Catherine Pickering
Chief Executive Officer
T: +41 79 952 72 52
E: [email protected]

Press Relations
Jeremy Nieckowski
LifeSci Advisors
T: +41 79 699 97 27
E: [email protected]

iOnctura SA is a clinical stage oncology company targeting core resistance and relapse mechanisms at the tumorstroma-immune interface. iOnctura’s best-in-class drug development programs combine immune-mediated and direct anti-tumor activity to deliver molecules with superior clinical efficacy and safety in oncology. Its lead program, IOA-244, is the only semi-allosteric PI3Kdelta specific, orally dosed, small molecule inhibitor that is being developed in solid and hematological tumors to address tumor and stroma induced immune suppression. IOA-244 is currently in Phase 1b studies for solid and hematological tumors. iOnctura’s second program, IOA-289, is an oral small molecule that inhibits the cross-talk between the tumor and its stroma and is in a Phase 1 clinical study. iOnctura is backed by blue chip investors including M Ventures, Inkef Capital, VI Partners, Schroders Capital, and 3B Future Health Fund. For more information, please visit

IOA-289, originally licensed from Cancer Research UK, is iOnctura’s second clinical compound, a next generation oral small molecule autotaxin inhibitor that is currently being investigated in the healthy volunteer stage of the AION 01 trial, a phase 1 clinical study in pancreatic cancer. iOnctura has undertaken extensive validation of the autotaxin
inhibition mechanism in multiple preclinical solid tumor models.