Damiá Tormo
2011, Spain
Developing new therapies against aggressive cancers
Biotechnology

Figures speak clearly about a battle against time. “The average life of patients having a metastatic melanoma ranges from 6 to 10 months only”, says Maria Soledad Soengas, director of the Melanoma Group of the Molecular Oncology Programme at CNIO (the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre). Valencian-born Damià Tormo – PhD in Molecular Genetics and Immunology at Bonn University – has been working for 6 years in a race whose target is to replace powerlessness with hope. His goal as postdoctoral member of Soendas' group (until March, 2010) and currently as innovator within the biopharmaceutical company  Bioncotech Therapeutics, of which he is co-founder, consists in the development of an effective treatment and make it accessible to thousands of patients with aggressive tumors. Among these – besides melanoma – bladder, brain or pancreatic cancer. After spending one year at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Michigan, in 2008 Damià moved to CNIO. During his time, he discovered that double-chain RNA nanocomplexes (dsRNA) could generate a triple action against cancer cells : apoptosis activation, immunostimulation and autodigestion of tumor cells.

His technology – developed and patented by Bioncotech's founders together with CNIO – proved capable of inhibiting primary and metastatic melanomas without notable side effects, besides being effective on bladder or prostatic cancer, which until now was lacking an effective treatment.

Damià's work – published on Cancer Cell magazine – draws the path to follow for the future development of drugs. He has himself given precise indications in this respect through his company. At Bioncotech, a team is improving the BO-100 compound formulation employed by this treatment, and its pre-clinical test results are soon to be presented to the European and American drug agencies. For this purpose, Damià has already obtained important funds, both public and private, and closed the second round of his funding process last month.

“His initiative presents the credentials of having complied with the strict rules of risk capital”, says Hector Ara, President of the Executive Board of Suanfarma Biotech, as well as member of the Jury of the MIT TR35 in Spain. Ara also highlights Damià's “strong scientific profile” and his “adaptation to the business world” as guarantees of the “great robustness” of the project.