New biotech company Confo Therapeutics launched by VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Capricorn Venture Partners leads 1st financing round of € 3 million

24 June 2015

The establishment of Confo Therapeutics, a spin-off of VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, was announced today. A consortium led by Capricorn Health-Tech Fund with the participation of Qbic and SOFI contributed € 3 million in the first institutional round of investment. These resources will be used to develop further the innovative CONFO® technology platform and initiate drug discovery programs.

Confo Therapeutics originates from the CONFO® technology developed by Prof. Jan Steyaert and his team (VIB/Vrije Universiteit Brussel). For the first time, this technology allows medically relevant GPCRs (G-protein coupled receptors) to be stabilized in their active functional state, which is essential for drug discovery. Confo Therapeutics will start with a team of six employees, under the supervision of Stephane van Rooijen, formerly from Genzyme and Viropharma.

BioCentury presents Confo Therapeutics as 'Emerging company' in their latest publication
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Stephane van Rooijen, CEO Confo Therapeutics: “Confo Therapeutics will position the revolutionary CONFO® technology as the new standard in the field of drug development. The company will build a portfolio of pre-clinical development programs in therapeutically relevant disease domains”.

Jan Steyaert, Scientific Founder & CSO: “I am truly satisfied that our research is now resulting in tangible applications for patients. Our new technology is facilitating the development of new drugs for diseases that are currently hard to treat or untreatable.”

Johan Cardoen, Managing Director VIB: “I think that I speak on behalf of all the investors when I say that we are delighted with this new biotech company and the creation of new jobs. For VIB it’s essential to be able to rely on partners such as Qbic and Capricorn, the two main investors who supported this project from the start. The establishment of this start-up once again proves the importance of innovative basic research and the potential of our biotech sector”.

The technology tackles challenges of protein conformation in the development of new drugs
G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are attractive drug targets in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, because they play an essential part in many life processes and therefore also in diseases. GPCRs are on-off switches located in the cell membrane and pass signals from outside into the cell through conformational changes in their structure.  In the case of diseases, these signals are not passed on properly.

The Steyaert Lab, in collaboration with the lab of Prof. Brian Kobilka (Stanford University), was the first to use single domain antibodies to stabilize GPCRs in active states for crystallography. In this state, hidden cavities become accessible to small molecules. These small molecules are the starting point for the development of innovative drugs that bind in these hidden cavities in a specific and targeted manner, ensuring that the correct GPCR is switched on and that the desired signal is correctly passed on.  This technology forms the basis of Confo Therapeutics to build a portfolio of pre-clinical development programs in therapeutically relevant disease domains.

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BioCentury presents Confo Therapeutics as 'Emerging company' in their latest publication

Confo(rmation) active
Drug discovery against GPCRs can be difficult because the proteins quickly fall apart when removed from their natural membrane environment. Confo Therapeutics N.V. has developed Confobodies, which mimic the role of the G protein to stabilize GPCRs in a soluble form for use in screening assays.

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Research


Confo Therapeutics team: Hassan El-Hassan, Sarah Triest, Stephane van Rooijen, Maja Debulpaep, Jan Steyaert and Toon Laeremans


Stephane van Rooijen, CEO Confo Therapeutics


Jan Steyaert, Scientific Founder & CSO