Oxford spinout nabs almost $100M in new cash to test PD-1 in autoimmune diseases and hunt for a CEO
After about 15 years in an Oxford lab and three more years in the upstart world following a 2019 spinout, MiroBio is ready to enter UK clinical trials and, en route to the clinic, the biotech has picked up $97 million in Series B funds.
The £80 million financing round kicked off in earnest last September and includes a transatlantic consortium — led by Medicxi — ready to bankroll that first clinical trial, beginning “imminently,” as well as the debut study of a second program thereafter, executive chair Eliot Charles, an SR One venture partner, told Endpoints News.
The 37-employee biotech is based off the scientific chops of Oxford’s Richard Cornall and Simon Davis. They’ve been studying checkpoint receptors for well over a dozen years, and MiroBio has tasked itself with advancing their research into creating monoclonal antibodies to treat autoimmune diseases.
With more than 70 inhibitory checkpoint receptors found in the human immune system, MiroBio is scanning through the library and coming up with programs that can take advantage of some of those, Charles said.
So far, the company is revealing MB272 and MB151, which are agonists for BTLA and PD-1, respectively. PD-1 is well-known in the oncology space, but MiroBio wants to go after undisclosed autoimmune diseases to start. Behind those programs is earlier-stage discovery work studying “receptors that are much less well-known or, at least, there’s not as much out there in the literature,” the chairman said.
“There was an appreciation that we could use monoclonal antibodies to artificially agonize, stimulate these receptors and then drive activity through their pathways,” Charles said.
The startup will bring MB272 into the clinic “very soon” after receiving the go-ahead from the UK’s health regulator recently, he said, noting the program will begin with the typical single- and multiple-ascending dose studies in the UK and then move into a Phase II program in the US, UK, Canada and Europe. MB151 will follow suit.
“We’re working on plans for the Phase II trials. We haven’t disclosed the indications yet,” Charles said.
The company recently hired CMO Sanjay Keswani, the former Annexon Biosciences CMO and Rheos Medicines CEO, and promoted SVP of R&D Lynne Murray to CSO. She was previously head of regeneration for AstraZeneca’s early respiratory and immunology work.
The company will also look for a new CEO in the near-term, the chairman noted.
While still early stage, MiroBio has heard from a number of potential partners who have expressed “really strong interest,” Charles said, so the biotech is “having conversations right now.” Ideal strategic partners, he said, would be those with “great tissue banks, datasets, other forms of expertise that, quite frankly, as a small company, is just hard to access.” Those with manufacturing prowess would be good, too.
Existing backers SR One, Advent Life Sciences and Oxford Science Enterprises were joined by new MiroBio investors OrbiMed and Monograph Capital. Tim Funnell, a former MiroBio VP of operations, is a partner at Monograph.