Having spent more than two decades researching biology of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), Paolo Michieli and his team at the University of Torino, Italy forged a collaboration with Netherlands-based biotech Argenyx to create AgomAb Therapeutics in 2017. On Wednesday, the Belgian firm scored a €21 million (about $23.5 million) injection for its slate of undisclosed preclinical programs.
HGF — a protein secreted by mesenchymal cells — has long been studied for its role in cell proliferation, survival, motility and differentiation. It is understood to promote wound healing as well as tissue regeneration in a number of preclinical models, chief Tim Knotnerus said in an interview with Endpoints News.
But attempts to harness the protein have been challenged by its poor drug-like properties, including stability and half life, as well as manufacturing obstacles. By using Argenyx’s tech platform, “we can overcome these…properties by actually developing an antibody that mimics HGF,” Knotnerus said.
“The luxury here, but also the challenge of this is that we have many interesting therapeutic signals in a variety of preclinical models — fibrotic diseases, but also autoimmune diseases, regenerative diseases. We have not selected a lead indication.”
AgomAb will use the money to shepherd its antibodies to the IND stage, added Knotnerus, electing to not provide any more detail.
Michieli, who has previously worked for the NCI in Bethesda, Maryland, serves as AgomAb’s chief scientific officer. Meanwhile, Argenx co-founder Torsten Dreier has joined AgomAb as chief development officer.
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