National Growth Fund invests 325 million euros in Oncode-PACT

Apr 14, 2022

The National Growth Fund invests 325 million euros in the Oncode-PACT plan to accelerate the preclinical development process of cancer drugs. This has just been announced during the press conference by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the National Growth Fund Committee. The committee recommends allocating the entire amount, of which 161 million euros will be awarded directly and a conditional award of 164 million euros. With this investment, Oncode-PACT will develop valuable drug candidates faster and cheaper and thus bring them to patients sooner. This will improve the quality of life of cancer patients while strengthening the future economic earning capacity of the Netherlands.


The development of a medicine takes on average 10 to 15 years, from the first scientific insights obtained in the laboratory, to the moment that patients can have access to it. However, it is a common occurrence that a drug candidate is not effective enough, or it does not reach the right patient for other reasons during this lengthy process. Low success rates due to often late failures in drug development come at the price of high investments that ultimately do not lead to new drugs for patients. The current development process of anti-cancer drugs is therefore expensive, takes too long, and usually works only for a subset of the intended target patients. Oncode-PACT aims to provide solutions to these problems.


Patients in the lab

Oncode-PACT has the ambition to develop new demonstrably effective cancer drugs faster and more cost-effectively. The medical need is urgent, because cancer remains the number one cause of death in our country.


Alain Kummer, Managing Director Oncode Institute and Chairman of Oncode-PACT, explains: “Oncode-PACT places the patient at the center of the entire drug development chain. In the current situation, the preclinical development process is still insufficiently connected with the clinical practice, and we focus on the patient too late in the drug development process. By deploying patient data and tissues from patients early in the development process – for example organoid technology and artificial intelligence – it is possible to assess whether a potential drug could be effective and safe much earlier in the process than is currently possible, and with greater certainty. In addition, animal testing can be decreased with this new approach.”


This way, Oncode-PACT brings the patient into the lab. This reduces the chance that drug candidates drop out during late-stage clinical studies. With the approach envisioned by Oncode-PACT, it will be clearer before the start of clinical research, in which patient group the greatest effectiveness can be expected and under which circumstances. This makes it possible to approach the important phase of clinical research in a more targeted and faster way.


Significant market potential for anti-cancer drugs

Kummer continues: “Global sales of innovative cancer drugs and contract research for drug development present enormous economic opportunities for the Netherlands. Dutch knowledge institutions and (SME) companies will have access to the expertise and facilities offered by Oncode-PACT and will be able to go through the preclinical development process faster and more effectively. This way, Oncode-PACT will create new business, knowledge and technology in drug development and contract research, strengthen the business climate for foreign companies and develop affordable cancer treatments.””


Impact on patients

The way of working within Oncode-PACT ensures that patients receive more viable treatments as early as possible. Thanks to this new way of drug development, it will be possible in the future to offer tailor-made treatment at a much earlier stage of a patient’s disease and make a difference that way.


Data for the entire programme

Utrecht University professor Albert Heck serves in ONCODE-PACT as the working group leader for therapeutic vaccines. Heck's laboratory at Utrecht University's Beta Faculty will contribute to the programme with various types of mass spectrometry and biochemical analyses. These methods will generate data for the entire ONCODE-PACT programme.


Heck's lab is nationally and internationally recognised as a proteomics facility. It will be used within Oncode-PACT for plasma proteomics, i.e. the quantification of all plasma proteins to research response to vaccination or therapy. In addition, the lab facilitates antibody-targeted proteomics, with the expectation of finding new therapeutic antibodies. Finally, it will analyse HLA peptides related to cancer cells, including neoantigens, to identify new targets for vaccines.

The National Growth Fund invests 325 million euros in the Oncode-PACT plan to accelerate the preclinical development process of cancer drugs. This has just been announced during the press conference by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the National Growth Fund Committee.