An OrbiMed-backed startup looks to cut excess corticosteroids with mid-stage tests for its lead drug queued up
OrbiMed has had a busy few months with a slate of startups launching out of its always productive pipeline of business concepts. Now, an OrbiMed-backed player in Oregon is looking to tamp down intracellular steroid toxicity, and it’s got a healthy check to get off the ground.
Portland-based Sparrow Pharmaceuticals launched Tuesday with a $50 million Series A led by OrbiMed and a lead corticosteroid lowering candidate geared up for Phase II trials, the company said.
The company’s lead drug, an oral HSD-1 inhibitor dubbed SPI-62, helps cut excess corticosteroids circulating in patients, whether naturally or through steroid therapy, which can cause toxicity in tissues, Sparrow said.
Founded on science by CSO David Katz, the drug interacts with HSD-1, which the biotech called the “predominant source” of intracellular steroids. By going after that pathway, Sparrow thinks it can curb steroid toxicity potentially without impeding the efficacy of steroids used to treat inflammatory conditions.
The company expects to enter SPI-62 into multiple Phase II studies in endogenous Cushing’s syndrome, autonomous cortisol secretion, and polymyalgia rheumatica within the next 12 months, according to a release. Those tests will queue up a series of readouts over the next few years.
With its first round in hand, Sparrow on Tuesday appointed Robert Jacks, a Pfizer veteran and former OrbiMed entrepreneur-in-residence, as CEO to to lead the company into its next phase.
“With this new financing, we have an opportunity not only to address unmet medical needs in patients suffering from disorders of hypercortisolism, but also to potentially solve the 70-year-old puzzle of how to separate the life-changing efficacy of steroid medicines from their severe side effects,” Jacks said in a statement.
In addition to SPI-62, Sparrow has another candidate, a combo therapy of another HSD-1 inhibitor and the steroid prednisolone that is currently in Phase I tests for polymyalgia rheumatica.
The round was led by OrbiMed with participation from RiverVest Venture Partners and US Venture Partners.