A little less than two years after J&J swooped in to snag the preclinical antithrombin drug at XO1 in the UK, the virtual team of entrepreneurs who created that asset-centered venture is back together again. This time they’re operating as SuperX, and they’re working in a very familiar research space.
With a very familiar budget.
Like XO1, SuperX is getting a liftoff with an $11 million round — this time drawn from Medicxi and partners at Johnson & Johnson Innovation. University of Cambridge Professor Jim Huntington is the CSO. Trevor Baglin is the CMO. X01 co-founder and Medicxi partner David Grainger is on the team, along with Kevin Johnson, also at Medicxi, taking the chairman’s role. XO1 vets Bob Schroff will be operations chief with Jo Davies once again handling the intellectual property.
The business model here is something that Medicxi is quite comfortable with. It’s a tight budget with no room for a dedicated staff. You can expect a CRO to do much of the heavy preclinical lifting as they get the manufacturing squared away.
Medicxi isn’t known for splashing large sums on early-stage drugs. But they have a successful track record in setting up early deals after demonstrating some value ahead of the clinic, staying “laser focused,” in Grainger’s words, on a single project. And while there are no options or strings attached on J&J’s involvement, the same pharma giant that is taking XO1’s drug ahead will have a front row seat to see how this new follow-up therapy performs.
“The whole anticoagulant space is simply enormous,” Grainger tells me, “with so many different triggers for thrombosis. We still believe the XO1 drug is a magnificent drug,” but there’s still plenty of types of thrombosis to tackle.
Besides, he added, the team all agreed that “wouldn’t it be great to do it again?”
Like X01, says Baglin, the company’s sole program emerged out of observations around the case studies of patients that should bleed, but didn’t, building on the same experience that inspired the predecessor program but coming at it from a different angle. In the XO1 case, a patient that should have been suffering from hemophilia was able to stop bleeding naturally, and they took the antibody that did that and synthesized it.
The partners are enthusiastic about this new venture, but they’re also playing their cards close to the vest. The antibodies they’re working with have properties for anticoagulation, looking to block thrombosis that causes heart attacks and strokes. The goal is to develop an ideal anticoagulant for chronic use, without the threat of bleeding posed by the current generation of therapies.
But don’t ask about the target yet.
“The (new) target we haven’t disclosed yet,” says Huntington, “so it’s impossible to say why we’ve decided on this target. But it’s an incredibly cool story.”
The team is looking at a couple of years work before this next drug will be ready for the clinic. And then they can see whether they mount the first human study themselves, or a partner comes along to snag it for themselves.
This new company comes just days after Medicxi joined a syndicate involving Touchstone and Cambridge Enterprise to back another spinout from the labs of Huntington and Baglin. ApcinteX Limited picked up a £14 million Series A funding round to back a new hemophilia drug.
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