Updated: A GPCR startup out of France and Canada scores its Series A after 14 years of wheeling and dealing
Having already nailed down multiple licensing and collaboration deals with Big Pharma giants like Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer, a France- and Quebec-based GPCR biotech now has its first VC financing round under its belt.
The I/O focused biotech Domain Therapeutics closed a Series A worth $42 million, the company announced Tuesday — which will last two years, according to CEO Pascal Neuville. Domain had previously built numerous partnerships with different pharma companies since its founding in 2008, such as Merck KGaA, Takeda and Boehringer Ingelheim.
“We are pleased to welcome our new shareholders and I thank them all for their commitment at this decisive stage of our company’s growth,” Neuville said in a statement. “After having delivered a first GPCR drug candidate for immuno-oncology together with Merck KGaA, Domain is now committed to advance its own treatments reviving the immune system to defeat cancer.”
As for what’s next, Domain said in a statement that it will move pipeline development forward for a variety of drug candidates, including clinical development for an EP4R antagonist, push two GPCR programs into the IND stage (which does include an anti-CCR8 antibody), and advance the biotech’s discovery efforts for GPCR-targeting drugs.
Neuville elaborated that Domain began a shift in 2018, after Danish biotech Prexton Therapeutics got bought out by Lundbeck for more than $100 million upfront in a $1.1 billion deal. Prexton’s sole candidate at the time, foliglurax, originated from a series of compounds that were initially discovered by Domain, and had been out-licensed to Prexton in 2013. As an IP holder, Domain could only receive a certain out — and Neuville said that Domain only captured 11% of the deal.
And with that new development, Neuville said that the biotech has decided to keep assets within the company and create “more value” for the company. As to what that looks like? Keeping a limited number of partnerships, and rather emphasizing in-house assets and pushing those candidates towards the clinic.
Neuville told Endpoints News that with the Series A, the 100-person biotech is no longer focused on multiple indications as they used to — no more CNS or rare disease. In his words, the Series A round marks Domain 2.0, focusing specifically on GPCR-targeting drugs for immuno-oncology.
GPCRs have been the low-hanging fruit and the target of many approved drugs, but a more recent suite of biotechs has aimed to build on that foundation with new technological approaches. Recently, Sosei Heptares had signed two discovery deals, one being an antibody discovery deal with Twist Bioscience last year, and the other coming in a deal in January with Alphabet’s Verily after AbbVie pulled out of a deal with the Japanese biotech.
Belgian biotech Confo also signed a deal with Regeneron last year to leverage its platform, which uses selective VHH antibodies to stabilize GPCRs, towards discovering antibody drug candidates for GPCR targets.
Quite a few investors decided to tag along Tuesday: co-lead investors Panacea Venture, 3B Future Health Fund and CTI Life Sciences, along with adMare BioInnovations, Schroders Capital, Omnes, Turenne Capital, Theodorus, and Viva BioInnovator. Existing investor Seventure Partners, which had previously invested $3.9 million into the company back in 2019, also tagged along. The last money Domain raised was a $6.7 million debt financing from a consortium of French banks in January 2020.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated after a video interview with Pascal Neuville, CEO of Domain Therapeutics.