The music has started playing for Disco Pharmaceuticals, after the company emerged from stealth with €20 million ($21.8 million) to bring its cancer cell surface mapping technology-developed candidates to oncology therapeutics.

AbbVie’s venture capital arm, Panakes Partners, M Ventures contributed to the financing round, which was led by Sofinnova Partners.

Disco has developed a mapping platform for the cancer surface proteome – called the surfaceome. The company’s technology identifies proteins across the entire cancer cell surface to uncover potential target candidates for mono- and bispecific antibodies, according to a 16 January press release.

Disco has already utilised its technology in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and microsatellite-stable colorectal cancer. In the case of SCLC, the company claims it has completed the first-ever map of the surfaceome of this type of cancer. Disco is developing antibody-based treatments for these two cancers, with further undisclosed programmes in its pipeline.

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) were the talk of the town during the recent J.P. Morgan Conference.  In its 2023 Biopharma Licensing and Venture Report, the financial firm highlighted a spike in deal values for ADCs – a total of $4.6bn upfront cash and equity exchanged hands in ADC licensing deals in 2023. The notable big deal of 2023 was MSD’s $22bn ADC licence with Daiichi Sankyo.

Disco acknowledged the rise in development of ADCs and bi-specific antibodies but added that the lack of cancer-specific cell surface targets is a limiting factor. The company stated that less than 30 molecular targets form the basis of all antibody-based therapies. Disco said its anti-cancer therapeutics pipeline could have boosts in efficacy and reduced side effects by using its platform.

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Founded in May 2022, Disco spun out of public research university ETH Zurich. Its founders hailed from ETH along with the University of Cologne and Stanford University. Cologne’s professor of translational genomics, Dr. Roman Thomas, will lead the company as CEO. Disco team also includes  Dr. Stefan Ries, who was in Roche’s oncology R&D leadership team, and new board chairman Dieter Weinand, former CEO of German pharma giant Bayer. The two will join Disco as chief scientific officer and chairman of the board respectively.

Thomas believes Disco’s tech is truly disruptive, adding, “the surfaceome mapping in small cell lung cancer – that we completed within months – has validated our technology platform and approach, demonstrating its potential, and we look forward to applying it to different indications.”