CDR-Life is a Zurich-based biotech company that discovers and develops innovative medicines for the treatment of high need diseases. We invent and develop therapeutic antibody fragments with a focus on immuno-oncology and ophthalmology.
Our facilities are located in the Bio-Technopark in Schlieren-Zurich, Switzerland.
Our company was founded by a team of biotech leaders with a track record of delivering new therapies to patients in the areas of ophthalmology and oncology. The team is diverse with deep knowledge in all the key areas of biologics discovery and development and includes experienced entrepreneurs.
The founding team has a common history in ESBATech (Zurich), a biotech company founded in 1998 and acquired by Alcon in 2009. In ESBATech, we pioneered the single chain antibody fragment (scFv) technology resulting in four new biological entities proven to be safe and efficacious in humans including positive Phase 3 for the most advanced molecule.
To learn more about the people behind CDR-Life click here .
We exploit our past of developing successful medicines and pioneering therapeutic antibody fragments, to get a head start on making more effective, safer and better producible immunotherapies.
Currently, we have two active discovery programs.
CDR-Life makes therapeutic antibody fragments for high need diseases in oncology and ophthalmology. Our technology platform has been developed over a decade to efficiently make versatile, stable and highly producible single chain antibody fragments (scFvs).
Our scFvs can be used both as single unit therapeutics or as building blocks for more advanced multivalent and multispecific molecules. With a size of 26 kDa they are small in comparison to an IgG. This adds flexibility to optimize the size of the molecules for the ideal pharmacokinetic profile to suit a given disease. Most other biologic formats in the field are either too small for adequate exposure or too large to make well-producible bi-and trispecific molecules.
During our time in ESBATech, later a Novartis company, we developed several therapeutic scFvs that went through positive clinical proof-of-concept (Phase 2). One of them, RTH258, had positive Phase 3 readout in neovascular AMD within Novartis in June 2017. RTH258 is the first scFv therapeutic to apply for market approval and likely the first to enter the market. In addition, we developed the first biologic ever to effectively treat an intraocular disease when administered as an eye drop.
The successful development of scFv-based therapeutics in ophthalmology has validated our scFv technology for use as medicines. Based on this validation, the versatility of the scFvs, and the deep scFv know-how within CDR-Life, we aim to develop new first- and best-in-class scFvs in well suited areas such as ophthalmology and immuno-oncology for which new and promising treatment concepts exist.
CDR-Life AG is a biotechnology company located in Schlieren-Zurich, Switzerland.
Our investors comprise both private individuals and institutions. They have extensive experience either in the biotechnology industry or in growing companies. As long-term strategic partners, we value their support much beyond the funding they provide.
To find out more about investment opportunities, please contact us.
The CDR-Life team invented and developed brolucizumab (Novartis) that was recently positive in Phase 3 against wet AMD.
Leonardo Borras is an accomplished protein engineer with a track record in preclinical development of antibodies. After joining ESBATech in 2004, he designed and optimized numerous scFvs including brolucizumab (RTH258), which recently achieved positive Phase III against wet AMD in Novartis and is now being prepared for approval and launch.
In his role as Head of Protein Engineering at ESBATech, Leonardo was responsible for leveraging the scFv platform for the generation of bispecific antibodies, directed strategies to assess manufacturing properties and risks of antibody fragments, and led multiple projects from antibody discovery to early development for Alcon and later for Novartis.
More recently Leonardo led the scaffold technologies group at Novartis Biologics Center where he continued his work in antibody based scaffolds and multispecifics for different disease areas including immuno-oncology, cardiovascular diseases, and ophthalmology.
Leonardo developed a generically applicable antibody humanization procedure that for the first time resulted in highly stable and potent antibody fragments. He is inventor on numerous patents and his scientific work has been published in peer-reviewed journals.
Thomas Schleier is an experienced protein engineer with deep knowledge in protein production and characterization. After his study at university of applied sciences (Fachhochschule ZHW) in biochemistry he worked at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in a basic cancer research group. Thomas worked for 6 years on a broad variety of state of the art techniques and contributed to several publications.
Thomas was also part of the ESBATech team where he established the production and characterization of multispecific antibody derived formats and made considerable improvements of the mammalian cell expression platform.
Konstantin von Schulthess
Konstantin von Schulthess’ experience stretches over more than 15 years in financial leadership roles. He looks back on 9 years in R&D finance – first as global controller at Hoffmann-La Roche and then as CFO at ESBATech. He is the founder and owner of Goldhalden, a consultancy focusing on leadership in finance roles.
At ESBATech, a Novartis company, Konstantin oversaw all financial and business activities including funding, investor relations, budgeting, reporting, IT and infrastructure. Together with Dominik Escher he took part in the transaction team during the USD 589 million trade sale of the company to Alcon in 2009.
Prior to joining ESBATech Konstantin was the first global life-cycle controller at Roche. Building up this new role, he managed a total R&D and marketing budget of more than USD 400 million for Roche’s Anti-CD 20 (Rituximab / Ocrelizumab / Obinutuzumab).
Konstantin holds a law degree of the University of St.Gallen and an MBA from Babson College, Massachusetts (summa cum laude). He is a Swiss Certified Accountant.
Konstantin is a board member at Schulthess Klinik, Uznaberg AG, and Goldhalden.
Dr. Dominik Escher
Dominik Escher, Ph.D. is a biotechnology entrepreneur. He was a founder of ESBATech and was leading the company as CEO since its inception in 1998 until 2016. He raised more than USD 90 million venture capital for ESBATech AG. In 2009, ESBATech AG was acquired for USD 589 million by Alcon.
Within Alcon Dominik continued to lead ESBATech and was Vice President of R&D Alcon and member of the group’s Global R&D Leadership Team.
In 2011, when Alcon was acquired by Novartis, ESBATech joined the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research (NIBR). As Head of ESBATech, a Novartis company, Dominik was a member of the NIBR Global Ophthalmology Leadership Team as well as the NIBR Global Leadership Team of Biologics.
At the same time as ESBATech AG was sold to Alcon, Dominik was a founder of Delenex Therapeutics. He served on the board of this new biotech company until it was acquired by Cell Medica in 2016.
Dominik obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. He also holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Immunology from the University of Zurich and a Masters Degree in Education with specialization in Management and Organization from the ETH of Zurich.
Since 2002 he is a Board Member of the Swiss Biotech Association, the biotech industry organization of Switzerland which he leads as President since 2013.
Philipp Richle, Dipl. Ing. FH is an accomplished drug substance and drug product developer with 10 years of experience in the field of protein formulation, protein characterization and bio-analytics.
Philipp joined ESBATech in 2008 as an engineer and later Head of the Formulation Development group. During this time, he was responsible for several safe and stable formulations of lead candidates resulting in positive clinical proof of concept (PoC), e.g. for brolucizumab intravitreal formulation and LME636 topical formulation (both Novartis). He was also leading early development CMC teams enabling fast translation from research candidates to PoC-ready drug product.
Philipp has a degree in Biotechnology from University of Applied Science of Zurich (ZHAW).
Dr. Christian Leisner
Christian Leisner, Ph.D. is a seasoned drug developer. He has worked in all phases of drug development within the areas of ophthalmology, oncology, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease. Christian has led several global programs with new biologic entities including LME636 (Novartis) from the preclinical stage up through successful Phase 2 in two different ophthalmic diseases. He has also played lead roles in the clinical development of Rydapt (Approved in rare hematological disease) and brolucizumab (positive Phase 3 in retinal disease).
Christian has served in Business Development & Licensing teams in Alcon and Novartis and was part of the senior management in ESBATech.
He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from ETH Zurich, Switzerland. In addition, he holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology and in Chemistry from Roskilde University, Denmark.
Our leadership team consists of highly experienced entrepreneurs and drug developers in the biotechnology industry. Together we look back on:
- The foundation and growth of 5 startup companies.
- More than 30 years as entrepreneurs.
- More than 50 years in drug discovery and development.
- The development of 4 compounds from discovery to clinical proof of concept.
- The successful trade sale of our companies for more than USD 600 million, creating highly attractive returns to our investors.
- Raising more than USD 100 million in venture capital.
- The direct creation of more than 100 jobs.
- 6 years of working as a team at ESBATech, a Novartis company.
Scientific Advisory Board
The Scientific Advisory Board will serve as a vital strategic resource to the Company to develop novel treatments within ophthalmology and immuno-oncology.
In addition to guiding CDR-Life’s research and development activities, including clinical trial designs, the SAB will also identify new target indications and will evaluate strategic assets that leverage the management’s expertise in therapeutic antibody fragments.
Reza Dana, MD
Dr. Dana is an internationally recognized expert in corneal disorders and ocular inflammation. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Harvard, Dr. Dana holds the Claes Dohlman Chair in Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. A ‘Gold Fellow’ of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), he has authored over 280 peer-reviewed articles and over 120 reviews and book chapters. Dr. Dana has delivered more than 200 invited and named lectures worldwide and has been the recipient of numerous awards. In addition to his Ophthalmology appointment at Harvard, he serves on the graduate immunology program (Committee on Immunology) at Harvard Medical School. He currently serves as Associate Editor of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS) as well as serving on the editorial board of the journals Cornea, Scientific Reports (Nature Group), The Ocular Surface, Ophthalmologica, and UpToDate Rheumatology, among others. Dr. Dana leads a translational research program at Massachusetts Eye and Ear that has had ten Investigational New Drug (IND) applications accepted by the FDA to date.
Pravin Dugel, MD
Dr. Dugel is a world-renowned retinal specialist. In addition to RCA, he serves as a clinical professor at the University of Southern California Eye Institute, Keck School of Medicine. He is a founding member of Spectra Eye Institute, Sun City, and a Physician Executive Director at Banner Eye Institute, Banner University Medical Center, University of Arizona. Dr. Dugel has authored more than 200 papers and 35 book chapters. He serves on the editorial boards of several major medical journals, and has been a primary investigator in more than 100 multicenter clinical trials. Dr. Dugel is a recipient of the prestigious Senior Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Columbia University in New York and attended the UCLA School of Medicine.
Frank G. Holz, MD
Dr. Holz is a leading researcher in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and related imaging technologies. He has also been involved in several high profile clinical trials with innovative therapies for macular disease, and has contributed significant advances in the understanding of AMD phenotypes as well as macular telangiectasia, including characterizing the natural history in many patients and identifying early markers of the disease. For the last three decades, Dr. Holz has been at the forefront of clinical research using the most advanced retinal imaging modalities. He is one of the early adopters of confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy based fundus autofluorescence imaging as well as OCT-angiography. He founded the GRADE Reading Center Bonn to perform digital image analysis in multicentre clinical natural history and interventional trials. Dr. Holz serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal of the German Ophthalmological Society (DOG), Der Ophthalmologe, is a past president of DOG, and Board member of Euretina. He has received numerous awards including the Pro Retina Macular Degeneration Research Award, the Leonhard-Klein Award for Ocular Surgery, the Alcon Research Institute (ARI) Award, the Senior Achievement Award of the AAO and the Jules Gonin Award. He published more than 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals and is editor of several books on retinal diseases.
Ulrich Jaeger, MD
Dr. Jaeger is Professor in Hematology at the Medical University of Vienna and Head of the Hematology and Hemostaseology Department at Vienna General Hospital (AKH Wien). During his training, he completed a three-year research stay with Prof. Stanley Korsmeyer at Washington University in St. Louis. His clinical and scientific focus is on lymphoproliferative diseases (leukemia and lymphoma). As a study director, he is responsible for the international NHL13 study of aggressive lymphoma and for acute lymphocytic leukemia of the adult age within the Study Group of Medical Tumor Therapy (AGMT). He is also lead investigator in several Austrian and international studies. His special focus is on translational research. Dr. Jäger was President of the European Hematology Association (EHA) from June 2011 to June 2013 and is currently a member of the European Biomed Alliance and the European Alliance for Personalized Medicine.
Stephan Michels, MD
Professor at the University of Zurich and Vice Chair at City Hospital Triemli, Zurich, Switzerland Dr. Michels currently serves as vice-chair and head of medical retina at the Department of Ophthalmology, City Hospital Triemli, as well as professor at the University of Zurich. He obtained his ophthalmology training at the University of Luebeck, Emory University in Atlanta, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and the Medical University of Vienna. Dr. Michels was the first to study the potential use of bevacizumab (Avastin®) and canakinumab (Ilaris®) in ophthalmology and is known for his work on therapeutic treatment strategies (PrONTO-Study). He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and has acted as principal or co-investigator in more than 25 clinical trials. He is leading the largest single intravitreal injection center in Switzerland and one of the leading centers for clinical studies on macular diseases in Switzerland.
Stephen J. Schuster, MD
Manfred Zierhut, MD
Dr. Zierhut holds degrees in chemistry and medicine from University of Tuebingen, and spent one year of his fellowship in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He is an expert in clinical and experimental immunology, including uveitis and dry-eye syndromes. Dr. Zierhut has completed more than 3,000 surgical procedures, and has written 130 journal articles, 65 book chapters, and 290 posters and presentations at medical conferences. He has authored or edited 25 books, has given more than 850 lectures, and has been the chief organizer of 36 congresses, workshops, and meetings. Dr. Zierhut was president of the International Uveitis Study Group from 2009 until 2013, and currently serves as head of the German Uveitis Patient Interest Group as well as Editor-in-Chief of Ocular Immunology and Inflammation.
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