Cancer treatment developer Efranat raises $4.5m

Uri Yogev

Efranat is conducting human trials of its drug, which uses controversial substance GcMAF.

Efranat, which is developing an innovative treatment for cancer, has raised $4.5 million. The company's treatment is based on the controversial research of a US professor who promised "complete healing" of cancer. Efranat, which wants "to do things the right way," has already conducted clinical trials on dogs, some of which recovered completely from cancers like melanoma and sarcoma. A trial with 40 patients suffering from various different types of cancer is currently taking place at Sheba Medical Center. Efranat CEO and former Ethrog Biotechnologies CEO Uri Yogev, said, "I'm very cautious where cancer is concerned."

A Google search for the word "GcMAF" yields a variety of websites with odd names registered in various remote countries offering you a wonderful substance that allegedly cures any type of cancer, not to mention autism. The same websites display opinions from various (again, allegedly) disinterested doctors aggressively marketing the substance, which has not been approved in the US, and claiming that it is a cure-all for most of humanity's problems.

GcMAF, a substance that appears naturally in the human body, has been extensively researched by Prof. Nobuto Yamamoto from Temple University in Philadelphia. The substance is known to stimulate activity by the immune system, as promised by those marketing it, but although Yamamoto described it as a wonder drug in 1997, no official trials have been conducted verifying that it is effective against cancer. A cancer research organization in the UK asserted that the hype surrounding the substance constituted charlatanism. This organization, as well as others, point out that the articles written by Yamamoto have been removed from the websites of the journals in which they appeared, owing to a range of ethical problems, including the listing of names of writers unrelated to the subject, and the presentation of "research bodies" established solely for that purpose, or which never existed.

Into this swamp came Efranat, a young Israeli company, which believes in GcMAF, and wants to test it properly once and for all, in the hope that it will discover than despite his dubious reputation, the substance does have some positive qualities. Prof. Yamanoto brought his knowledge and patents, but is not currently involved in Efranat's business. The company, whose tests on animal and initial tests on human beings were successful, today completed a $4.5 million financing round from private investors, including Battery Ventures cofounder Oliver Curme; Dr. Shmuel Cabilly (the inventor of Genentech's cancer drugs); and Isaac and Haim Friedman, cofounders of STARLIMS, which was acquired by Abbot Laboratories and former Given Imaging CFO Yuval Yanai. Founded by Boaz Shoham and Avi Levin, Efranat has 10 employees.

The idea of harnessing the body's immune system to fight cancer has made great strides in recent years. Several new drugs in this field have recently been approved, and are reporting impressive results. Most of the approved drugs operate on a part of the immune system that has a memory - it attacks objects that it specifically identifies as invaders, based on past experience. Efranat deals with another part of the immune system, which attacks any foreign invader, even without any existing memory of it. This system stimulates macrophages - cells whose function is to swallow other cells and large molecules. The body's natural GcMAF takes part in this mechanism. GcMAF is in short supply in cancer patients, and their macrophage function is atrophied. Can this situation be corrected by adding GcMAF? Yogev says, "We began by working with GcMAF from scratch. We developed a new, more stable, and patent-protected formula. We produced the material at the facilities of Kamada, which are FDA-approved. Efranat conducted spontaneous cancer trials on dogs (on dogs that developed cancer naturally, without it being induced), some of which recovered completely. A trial with 30-40 patients suffering from various types of cancer is currently being conducted at the Sheba Medical Center." He continued, "Yamanoto is not a young man; he is from the same generation as Shimon Peres. He researched the matter, then let it lie, in effect sitting on the patents for several years.

"Because this is a molecule that appears naturally in the body, the patent does not involve the material; it refers only to the production process. It was therefore easy to bypass it, and it is easy for all sorts of people around the world to sell promises that Yamamoto himself did not make. For example, one doctor set up a company in Guernsey Island that markets containers allegedly containing the material. We bought one of his containers, and couldn't find the molecule in it. We're keeping our distance from these people. We just want to produce and test the material according to the rules."

Efranat has developed a new patent-protected formula for the material that enhances its stability and makes it possible to use it clinically. The company is currently conducting initially human trials to test its safety and which type of cancer it is likely to treat most effectively. "I'm very cautious where cancer is concerned," Yogev declares. "Even the new drugs don't provide a solution for all patients and all tumors, but the future is in immunotherapy - utilizing the immune system."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 18, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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