Fighting Cancer and Infectious Diseases

KUPANDO is a pioneering Berlin-based biopharmaceutical company developing a TLR 4/7 agonist that stimulates innate immunity.

Our Mission is …

  • to provide, not only a safe but also affordable, immunotherapy to cancer patients, and
  • to develop immunostimulatory agents with the means to prevent infectious diseases.


Drug Candidate KUP101

Kupando develops an innovative drug candidate – KUP101, a TLR 4/7 agonist – which targets Toll-Like Receptors (TLRs) responsible for the detection of cancer and infection signature molecules, and for the subsequent activation of the innate immune system.

The TLR 4 and TLR7 ligands, which can be produced in a cost-effective fashion, are co-encapsulated in a liposomal formulation providing a multitude of options for administration routes and applications.

A multitude of possibilities

The proprietary drug candidate is ideally suited for the systemic treatment of solid tumors (tissue agnostic), the topical treatment of selected cancers (bladder and skin), the prevention of infectious diseases and as vaccine adjuvant.

Systemic treatment for solid tumors
(tissue agnostic)

Topical treatment for (bladder and skin) cancer

Immune-stimulatory agent without antigen

Vaccine adjuvant for universal influenza and others

Prophylactic against future pandemics: Disease X

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TLR Agonists Activate a Different MoA from Checkpoint Inhibitors — Additive Effect

Single agent or combinations

In oncology, TLR 4/7 agonists have the potential to be used as a stand-alone treatment for solid tumors or in combination with other drugs.

In vivo studies have shown so far comparable efficacy, a better safety profile and a synergistic/additive effect to checkpoint inhibitors.

Advantageous features

  1. High specificity for target
  2. No relevant off-targets
  3. High potency and therefore low dose
  4. Antigen-sparing effect
  5. Fast intracellular uptake and therefore improved safety

KUP101’s advantageous features include a high target specificity in the absence of relevant off-targets, an antigen-sparing effect, and a good safety profile.

First-in-class encapsulated small molecules

KUP101 is the only TLR 4/7 agonist in development.

Proof-of-concept data have been confirmed in multiple animal experiments and independent research units. IND-enabling work is ongoing for the treatment of solid tumors and the prevention of infectious diseases.


Scientific Background

Vertebrae have two immune systems: (1) an innate immune system and (2) an adaptive one. Innate immunity is inborn. On the contrary, adaptive immunity is acquired over time while developing resistance against pathogens.

From an evolutionary point of view, the innate immune system has evolved over millions of years and has proven to be highly efficacious. It reacts within minutes to days, is not limited by specificity and capable to combat a broad spectrum of pathogens. For decades though, the role and the importance of this part of the immune system have been undervalued and it is now the target of Kupando’s approach.

KUP101, our drug candidate, stimulates innate immunity by activating Toll Like Receptors (TLRs) and therefore provides a unique tool to fight cancer and infectious diseases.

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TLRs operate to detect signature molecules that herald infection and cancer by activating the innate immune system.

There are 10 known TLRs in the human innate immune system. KUP101 specifically stimulates TLR 4 and 7 (TLR 4/7 agonist).

In primates, TLR 7 is expressed mainly by plasmacytoid dendritic cells and B cells. Active TLR 4 is expressed by many more cell types, including endothelial cells and macrophages.

The purpose of an innate immune stimulator is to initiate an adaptive immune response.

If a tumor has few infiltrating dendritic cells and B cells though, a TLR 7 agonist alone may not be a sufficient stimulant. KUP101’s co-encapsulated formulation, which provides additional co-localized TLR 4 agonists, causes local cytokine and chemokine release, especially from the endothelial cells that line the abundant micro vessels that penetrate tumors. In turn, this leads to the recruitment of more dendritic cells and B cells from the blood stream to the tumor, thereby initiating a CD8 cytotoxic immune response.

Both TLR 4 and TLR 7 are validated targets: TLR 4 is the target of MPLA, a vaccine adjuvant. TLR 7 is the target of Imiquimod, a drug used against bladder cancer, actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma and HPV-induced epithelial lesions.



Kupando’s drug development is supported by scientific research, see below a short list of scientific publications. For additional information or publications by our team or our collaborators, please talk to us.

June 2020

A Novel Synthetic Dual Agonistic Liposomal TLR4/7 Adjuvant Promotes Broad Immune Responses in an Influenza Vaccine With Minimal Reactogenicity

Sato-Kaneko et al.
frontiers in Immunology

June 2018

Induction of oligoclonal CD8 T cell responses against pulmonary metastatic cancer by a phospholipid-conjugated TLR7 agonist

Hosoya et al.

Sept 2017

Combination immunotherapy with TLR agonists and checkpoint inhibitors suppresses head and neck cancer

Sato-Kaneko et al.
JCI Insight

July 2017

Synthetic Toll-Like Receptor 4 (TLR4) and TLR7 Ligands Work Additively via MyD88 To Induce Protective Antiviral Immunity in Mice

Goff et al.
Journal of Virology;
American Society for Microbiology

Our Name

Our company name “Kupando” derives from the Swahili word “kupanda”, which means to mount, to ascend or to rise.

This is what we wish to the patients potentially benefitting from our drug candidate.

Our aim is to develop better drugs in oncology. Our technology however also has potential in the fight against infectious diseases like malaria, HIV, tuberculosis which are rife in developing countries like Kenya where Swahili is spoken.

This is why we chose the ascending crown crane as our Company Bird. As a messenger of luck and guardian of the health of people and cattle, it is revered in many cultures in the Sahel region south of the Sahara.

The picture of our Company Bird was taken by Johanna Holldack, our CEO, when she was travelling in Kenya and came up with the concept behind Kupando.



Kupando is led by a management team with a wealth of international biotech and pharma experience gained in both Europe and the US in the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and oncology.

With over 100 drug development projects and a huge variety of transactions under its belt, our team brings extensive expertise in business and drug development including in manufacturing, non-clinical and clinical development of vaccines and drugs, as well as regulatory pathways in Europe, the US and Asia.

CEO & Founder
  • 30+ years’ experience in drug development:
    – Oncology (Proleukin, Eligard,  Veregen, TMX-101, etc.)
    – Vaccines (Influenza, Rabies, DTaP, etc.)
  • 4 successful Exits (IPO and trade sales: MediGene, Borean Pharma, Telormedix, Amal Therapeutics)
  • Board member of Photocure
  • Corporate Finance & Investor Relations
  • Managed two IPOs and several M&A transactions
  • Worked as top Management Consultant and Start-up Coach
  • 20 years’ experience in the Biotech Industry
  • Business Economist by training
Head of Regulatory Affairs & Project Management
  • Founder and Managing Director, Regulatory Strategies Consulting
  • Senior regulatory advisor, Granzer Consulting
  • Global Head of Regulatory Affairs, MediGene AG
  • Visiting Scientist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Scientific Adviser & Inventor

Kupando was formed on the basis of research at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in the laboratories of Prof. Dennis Carson who created our small molecule (TLR4/7 agonist).

Inventor and Scientific Advisor
  • Currently working on adjuvant discovery and vaccine research
  • Played key role in founding Dynavax, IDEC, Telormedix, Vical and others
  • About 600 papers published
  • Professor Emeritus, Moores UCSD Cancer Center
  • Member of the National Academy of Science


Kupando GmbH
Willy-Brandt-Platz 2
12529 Schönefeld


Fighting Cancer and Infectious Diseases