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University of Basel

German pharma company acquires University of Basel start-up for 450 million Swiss francs

Simon Ittig gives a speech
Dr. Simon Ittig, CEO of T3 Pharma, at the Innovation Day of the University of Basel in 2017 (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

The biotech company T3 Pharmaceuticals, a spin-off from the University of Basel, is being acquired by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim. T3 Pharma has developed a novel technology that uses live bacteria to deliver therapeutic proteins to cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment.

22 November 2023 | Redaktion

Simon Ittig gives a speech
Dr. Simon Ittig, CEO of T3 Pharma, at the Innovation Day of the University of Basel in 2017 (Photo: University of Basel, Christian Flierl)

T3 Pharmaceuticals (“T3 Pharma”) was founded in 2015 as a spin-off of the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. The company focuses on bacterial therapies for the treatment of solid tumors. The Basel-based biotech company’s approach is based on the type 3 secretion system, an injection device that enables bacteria to introduce proteins directly into human target cells.

The spin-off has developed a novel technology from this: It has optimized the bacteria so that they specifically colonize solid tumors and efficiently release therapeutic proteins that inhibit cancer growth directly or indirectly via the immune system. T3 Pharma has thus succeeded in asserting itself in the highly competitive market for cancer therapies. The main product, T3P-Y058-739, is currently being tested in a Phase I clinical trial. Boehringer Ingelheim will spend up to 450 million Swiss francs on the acquisition of the privately held start-up.

Prof. Andrea Schenker-Wicki, President of the University of Basel, is delighted with the successful transfer of scientific findings into entrepreneurial success. “First and foremost, I am proud of Simon Ittig and his team; they have done an outstanding job. It shows that excellent research and perseverance are rewarded.”

At the same time, she sees this as confirmation of the university’s strategy of playing a central role in the innovation system: “The success story of T3 Pharma reinforces the University of Basel’s intention to promote start-ups with its innovation initiative consistently” the President said.

T3 Pharma is headquartered in Allschwil near Basel, where the company was founded with financial support from both corporate and institutional investors. Following the acquisition, T3 Pharma’s operations will remain in the Basel region.

Research at the Biozentrum is interdisciplinary, ranging from infection biology to structural biology. For Prof. Torsten Schwede, Vice President for Research at the University of Basel, it is no coincidence that the idea to found the company originated there: “A detailed understanding of how cells work is needed so that researchers like Simon Ittig can develop new innovative drugs and therapies.”

Radical innovations from basic research

The success of T3 Pharma is an excellent example of how radical innovations can emerge from basic research. According to Schwede, this serves as a role model: “It’s a motivating example for young researchers at the University of Basel: Simon Ittig has proven that you can be successful with a university start-up if you consistently pursue an idea.”

In 2017, the University of Basel launched an innovation initiative to actively promote the implementation of research results and the transfer of new technologies developed at the university. By founding start-ups in particular, it generates highly qualified jobs and makes an essential contribution to strengthening the economy of the Basel region.

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