A biotech emerges from one Deerfield's R&D donation partners
Two years ago, Deerfield began writing large checks to prestigious research institutes as part of a strategy to get in on the ground floor of top translational work. The close relationship they built with one of those institutes – Dana Farber – has now led to a new biotech.
Civetta Therapeutics announced $53 million in Series A funding to apply protein-protein interaction technology from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, among other targets. The scientific founders were Eric Fischer, head of the new Deerfield-endowed Center for Protein Degradation at Dana Farber, and William Sellers, who led oncology research at Novartis for 11 years before returning to Harvard and Dana-Farber. No investor besides Deerfield was named.
The new biotech will focus around beta-propeller proteins, a long-time target in a protein-modifying field newly flush with cash. These sites are formed from a handful of symmetrical polypeptide chains arranged toroidally — science-speak for “like a doughnut” — around a central spot. They appear across the body and have been linked to disorders such as beta-propeller protein-associated neurodegeneration, metabolic diseases and some cancers.
Civetta will begin with cancer.
“Civetta’s vision is to develop a broad range of expertise in drugging the propeller domains, spanning from biochemistry to biology to medicinal chemistry,” Fischer said in a statement. “These efforts could lead to both the creation of nearer-term therapeutics and longer-term value in becoming a leader in this space.”
The company was founded earlier this year and has been working out of the Ipsen biotech accelerator in Kendall Square. Talks for the company began late last year, around the time Deerfield struck an $80 million deal struck deal with Dana Farber and Fischer to build The Protein Degradation Center. At the time, Deerfield heralded it as a new front for cancer drugs.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the science Civetta focuses on.