Drug Development

Atlas partner Saha takes the helm at Delinia, looking to disrupt autoimmune R&D


As a venture partner at Atlas, Saurabh Saha gets to look over a whole range of preclinical programs that come its way, including proposed drug candidates that can be used to start a new biotech. And the one that really grabbed his attention is an autoimmune project that will now form the core work at a startup called Delinia.

The focus at Delinia is a novel cytokine that Saha tells me has a real shot at “expanding and potentiating” regulatory T cells, or Tregs. There’s a long list of diseases triggered when the balance of Tregs and T effector cells is disrupted and the immune system starts to attack healthy tissue. By expanding Tregs, making it more active, Saha believes that Delinia’s drug can restore immune tolerance and homeostasis, stopping the disease.

“Of the hundreds (of proposed projects) I’ve seen,” says Saha, “this is the most promising in changing the paradigm, in a way that’s very natural.”

As of this morning, the 4 full timers at Delinia have a $35 million startup round to start moving to the clinic in the second half of 2017. And Saha says that is enough cash to get through one or two proof-of-concept studies.

The company will now grow the staff, with the execs in Cambridge, MA and the research group near the scientific source. Co-founder and the new chief scientific officer at Delinia, Jeffrey Greve, is credited with much of the discovery work for their cytokine. Company co-founder Michael Rosenblum is the assistant professor of dermatology at the UCSF School of Medicine.

The SAB also includes UCSF’s Abul Abbas and David Wofsy as well as Harvard’s Christophe Benoist and Jerome Ritz.

Delinia still hasn’t chosen its first target, but the new CEO says there are several to pick from, including lupus, Type 1 diseases and fibrotic diseases like scleroderma.

The round was co-led by Sofinnova Partners and Atlas Venture. Henrijette Richter PhD, Partner at Sofinnova Partners, and David Grayzel MD, Partner at Atlas Venture are founding board members.

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