A new spinout wades into ovarian aging, armed with a seed round and experimental drugs from Mass General
There aren’t many biotechs emphasizing women’s health, but a new spinout is trying to change that.
Oviva Therapeutics, a pipeline company of New York-based Cambrian Biopharma, emerged from stealth earlier this week to dive into the idea of extending women’s “healthspans,” or what it says is the part of a person’s life spent in generally good health, with a specific focus on ovaries. The emergence comes both with a seed financing worth $11.5 million from Cambrian, and an in-licensing agreement with Massachusetts General Hospital for a trio of patents.
Co-founder Daisy Robinton, a Harvard-trained molecular biologist, will helm the spinout as CEO.
She told Endpoints News that she came on board with Cambrian as a scientist in residence in 2020, after having a chat with CEO James Peyer about how no one focuses on the ovaries, despite how it’s the first organ to decline with aging. Robinton and Peyer had known each other since around 2014 due to being in similar circles at conferences and the like.
“So when you think about intervening on the aging process, it’s such an obvious thing to do. And because of the lack of research around female physiology, there’s all this low-hanging fruit, so huge potential for impact,” Robinton recalled telling Peyer in 2019, which is how she ultimately started at Cambrian after the CEO asked if she could potentially build a company around that idea.
When Robinton started, though, it was March 2020, right as the Covid-19 pandemic came into full swing. The lockdowns took her attention away from her original idea until the late summer and fall of 2020, and Oviva officially launched in March and April of 2021.
Oviva is developing an agent looking to limit folliculogenesis, the process wherein follicles — hairs in the ovary that each have one egg — mature to ultimately ovulate. This process eventually leads to the depletion of most of a woman’s eggs, reaching a low threshold that can subsequently trigger menopause. By limiting the process, the hope is that it can slow down depletion of the ovarian reserve, extending ovarian function and thus, the female healthspan.
The first avenue is looking at Anti-Müllerian Hormone, or AMH — a hormone that plays a key role in sex differentiation. This is where Oviva’s other co-founders come in, two Harvard professors who work out of Massachusetts General Hospital: Patricia Donahoe and David Pépin. Donahoe heads up the famed hospital’s pediatric surgical research laboratories, and is the Chief Emerita of Pediatric Surgical Services. Pépin, an ovarian physiologist, works out of the hospital as an associate molecular biologist.
Donahoe, 86, was among one of the earliest researchers on AMH, publishing as far back as the 1970s. While she focused more on the hormone’s role in ovarian cancer over the decades, Pépin looked at the function of the AMH gene in adult women, as they express AMH. The three patents obtained in the licensing agreements were developed at MGH by Donahoe and Pépin, including analog versions of AMH.
As for the biotech’s next steps, Robinton said Oviva is looking to start discussions with the FDA later this year and go straight for the IND stage with their first program, looking to mirror the elevation of endogenous AMH. As for more financing, she added that it’s looking at closing a Series A late this year or sometime early next year.