After a major facelift, AltruBio says it's ready for a pivotal fight against graft-versus-host disease
AltruBio got a makeover, and now it’s ready for its closeup.
CEO Judy Chou took over last January — when the biotech was still known as AbGemomics — on a mission to rebuild and rebrand. She culled the company’s oncology program to laser in on an old immunology candidate. Now with a new board, a new name and new cash, the company has its eyes set on a pivotal study.
On Thursday, AltruBio unveiled a $63 million Series A round to fund its transformation. Its lead candidate, neihulizumab (also known as AbGn-168H), is an immune checkpoint regulator targeting PSGL-1, a glycoprotein found on white blood cells and endothelial cells. Earlier this month, the Phase Ib candidate nabbed FDA fast track designation in steroid refractory acute graft-versus-host disease (SR-aGVHD).
After taking the helm, Chou decided to put the company’s GI cancer candidate AbGn-107 on the shelf to focus mainly on neihulizumab. The company read out Phase Ia results for AbGn-107 at ASCO 2020, which suggested the candidate was “well tolerated with preliminary signs of efficacy.” Five of 35 patients treated experienced Grade 3 or 4 neutropenia, all at higher dose levels, with 1 episode of febrile neutropenia, according to the results. And two patients experienced stable disease lasting longer than 6 months.
“I don’t want to spend another 20 years to get the product to the market so I need to be very concentrated on what we can deliver and get it to the finish line sooner,” she said.
Under former CEO and founder Rong-Hwa Lin, AbGenomics had been developing neihulizumab for psoriasis and other immunological diseases. Boehringer Ingelheim struck a collaboration deal around the candidate in 2005, then returned the rights in 2011. AltruBio however, is still collaborating with BI on manufacturing, Chou said.
“While we will continue to develop AbGn-168H for psoriasis, regaining the global rights will also permit us to consider other indications that will take advantage of the full therapeutic potential of this drug,” Lin said at the time.
He passed the torch to Chou last January, then stuck around as CSO before retiring in October. Before AltruBio, Chou was global head of biotech at Bayer.
Chou says the company is no longer going for indications in psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, “purely because of market competition.” The candidate is currently in a Phase Ib study for SR-aGVHD, and Chou expects to read out the data in Q1 or Q2 of next year. She said the team is planning to meet with regulators in the hopes of jumping right into a pivotal study.
AltruBio’s lead preclinical candidate, leiolizumab (AbGn-268), has demonstrated higher potency than neihulizumab, according to the company. Chou hopes to enter that candidate in the clinic around Q2 next year.
aMoon led the Series A round, along with BVF Partners, CAM Capital and other existing investors.
The company’s new board of directors is chaired by Patrick Yang, who was most recently executive VP at Juno Therapeutics, but previously served as Roche’s Global Head of Technical Operations. The board also includes Olema Oncology CEO Sean Bohen, Genentech vet Stephen Juelsgaard, former Castlight Health CEO John Doyle, aMoon partner Gur Roshwalb, and Celgene and Juno alum Corsee Sanders.