After getting their candidates back from Eli Lilly, the old Dermira team is dashing for the clinic
After getting bought out by Eli Lilly for $1 billion last year, the old Dermira team regrouped in January with their own upstart and three inflammatory disease programs licensed back from the Big Pharma. Now, the small team has $83 million more to work with.
Evommune unveiled an $83 million Series A round on Thursday morning, which will be used to push its first three candidates into the clinic. First up is IRAK4/TrkA, a small molecule that broadly inhibits innate inflammation, which CEO Luis Peña says should enter the clinic this year. The team is looking to tackle atopic dermatitis and rosacea, with the first clinical readout expected next year.
“There really still is the search for kind of the holy grail of a non-steroidal topical for atopic dermatitis that works really well,” Peña told Endpoints News. “And then with rosacea, there really hasn’t been a lot of new therapeutics for rosacea.”
Then there’s RORγt, a small molecule addressing Th17 mediated inflammation, which is being developed for psoriasis, as well as graft-versus-host disease, lichen planus, rosacea, and inflammatory bowel disease. The last compound licensed back from Lilly is MRGPRX2, a small molecule to treat chronic itch. Peña hopes to have clinical readouts on the latter two programs by the end of 2023.
There’s also a fourth candidate in the works for atopic dermatitis, dubbed PKCθ, brought in via a partnership with Axcelead Drug Discovery Partners.
When Lilly swallowed Dermira back in January 2020, the pharma had its sights set on lebrikizumab, a cast-off from Roche that Dermira picked up for $135 million in near-term cash. But Dermira’s broader anti-inflammatory pipeline is what Evommune’s interested in.
“There will be a focus, first and foremost, to drive the current pipeline forward,” Peña said. But long-term, the goal is to have at least one new pipeline addition every year, he added.
To do so, the team is leveraging a platform built at Dermira, in which donor skin from tummy tucks is used to induce inflammatory conditions. Because it mimics what’s happening clinically, the disease model offers an “amazing window” into inflammation across the body, the CEO said.
So far, Evommune has intentionally kept its 10-person team small. The company was incorporated about two years ago, with the help of CMO Eugene Bauer, Dermira’s co-founder and former CMO, and SVP of research Hans Hofland, who was head of research and nonclinical development at Dermira. But over the next six to nine months, Peña hopes to increase the staff by 30 to 40 new employees to help drive the pipeline and discovery work.
The latest round — which brings Evommune’s total raise to nearly $100 million — should help with that. Some “high caliber investors” chipped into the Series A, Peña said, including Andera Partners, LSP, Pivotal bioVenture Partners and other undisclosed investors.
Meanwhile, Peña says he’s got an S-1 in his back pocket.
“We will be ready to IPO if the markets look good,” he said. “But we also now, with this big of a round, have I would say the luxury to ride it out if the markets aren’t looking good.”