iOnctura awarded EUR17.5 million funding from the EIC Accelerator for clinical development of novel pancreatic cancer therapy

Published date:
December 20 2022

Founded in 2017 as a spinout 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 Horizon’s Therapeutic Innovations Labs which was also closely involved in its early development. From 2017, both iOnctura and Cancer Research Horizons collaborated closely on this inhibitor, with Cancer Research Horizons licensing it to iOnctura in 2019.

The new funding will support iOnctura’s clinical program for IOA-289, a first-in-class autotaxin inhibitor for the treatment of cancer.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 20 December 2022 – iOnctura BV, a clinical-stage biotech developing novel cancer therapies, announces today that it has been granted EUR17.5 million funding from the European Investment Council’s (EIC) Accelerator Program to develop IOA-289 for pancreatic cancer. The EIC’s funding consists of a grant of EUR2.5 million, and EUR15 million of equity investment.

On 8 December 2022 iOnctura announced the first patient was dosed in a Phase Ib clinical trial of IOA-289 in metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Catherine Pickering, Chief Executive Officer of iOnctura, said: “We are delighted to announce this funding from the EIC to support the clinical development of IOA-289 for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the only cancer with mortality on the rise in both sexes and is currently the 3rd largest cause of death by cancer in the US, and the 4th in Europe.

“There’s an urgent need to develop new therapies for pancreatic cancer and preclinical data demonstrate that IOA-289 offers a new approach, through a multi-pronged mechanism that addresses three hallmarks of cancer: fibrosis, immune suppression and tumor cell proliferation.”

iOnctura was granted the maximum allowed funding in appreciation of the significant potential of IOA-289, a highly-selective, first-in-class autotaxin inhibitor, to transform the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The judging panel recognized its unique ability to simultaneously target independent tumor survival pathways associated with tumor proliferation, fibrosis and immune suppression.

Funding came as part of the most recent tranche of grants from the EIC Accelerator program under Horizon Europe, that aims to accelerate deep tech start-ups through grants and equity investments. For this second wave of grants, the European Commission selected 78 innovative start-ups for funding during a highly competitive process. In all, 240 companies were interviewed by juries of experienced investors and entrepreneurs out of a total of more than 1,000 applications. The selected companies will together receive up to EUR470 million of funding in a combination of grants and equity investments.

The Phase Ib AION-02 study (NCT05586516) is a dose-escalation study of IOA-289 in combination with standard-of-care gemcitabine/nab-paclitaxel chemotherapy in first-line metastatic pancreatic cancer.


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

Optimum Strategic Communications
Mary Clark / Richard Staines / Vici Rabbetts
T: +44 208 078 4357
E: [email protected]

About iOnctura

iOnctura is a clinical-stage biotech developing selective cancer therapies against targets that play critical roles in multiple tumor survival pathways such as cellular proliferation; escape from immune detection; and drug resistance. iOnctura’s pioneering approach to drug development is expected to offer significant clinical benefits over the traditional approach of targeting a single pathway alone. iOnctura has progressed two therapeutic candidates into mid-stage clinical development: IOA-244, a highly selective allosteric inhibitor of PI3Kδ; and IOA-289, a highly-selective, non-competitive autotaxin (ATX) inhibitor. iOnctura is backed by specialist institutional investors including M Ventures, Inkef Capital, VI Partners, Schroders Capital, and 3B Future Health Fund.

About IOA-244

IOA-244 is a next-generation small molecule PI3Kδ inhibitor demonstrating fundamentally improved drug properties. Its unique structural and selectivity features translate into a highly beneficial emerging tolerability and clinical benefit profile, unprecedented within this drug class. PI3Kδ over-expression stimulates multiple cancer mechanisms and has an oncogenic role in many tumor types. IOA-244 has a multi-modal effect on cancer; directly preventing cancer cell proliferation, harnessing an anti-tumor immune response via an effect on regulatory T-cells and cytotoxic T cells and potentiating the effect of immunotherapy. IOA-244 is currently in the cohort expansion phase of the DIONE-01 trial, a two-part, first-in-human dose study evaluating IOA-244 in advanced cancers and as a combination partner for conventional and immune therapies (NCT04328844).

​​​​​​​About IOA-289

IOA-289 is the first autotaxin (ATX) inhibitor in clinical development for cancer. It is an oral small molecule non-competitive inhibitor with novel binding chemistry and a safe clinical profile. It has been shown that inhibiting ATX with IOA-289 directly prevents the proliferation of cancer cells. Furthermore, IOA-289 interrupts resistance to cancer therapy by reducing fibrotic scar tissue, unveiling the tumor and enabling the immune system to recruit infiltrating lymphocytes into the tumor2. Thanks to this multi-pronged mode of attack, IOA-289 reduced tumor burden in mouse pancreatic cancer models.