Canaan backs Pathios' search for small mol­e­cule drugs that hit 'or­phan' GCPR

As fruit­ful as G pro­tein-cou­pled re­cep­tors have proved for mod­ern med­i­cine — by com­mon es­ti­mates, more than 30% of FDA-ap­proved drugs tar­get this class of pro­teins — there are still dozens of “or­phan” GPCRs whose en­doge­nous lig­ands are poor­ly un­der­stood. One of them is GPR65, a pH sens­ing re­cep­tor that British biotech Pathios be­lieves plays a cru­cial role in both can­cer and au­toim­mune dis­eases.

Tom Mc­Carthy

Ox­ford-based Pathios was found­ed in 2017 by Tom Mc­Carthy, a biotech vet and one-time VC who has two oth­er ven­tures to his name: Spinifex Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a pain-fo­cused com­pa­ny ul­ti­mate­ly ac­quired by No­var­tis; and the im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start Grey Wolf. With $8.8 mil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing and Stu­art Hugh­es com­ing on board as CEO, Pathios is well on the way to gen­er­at­ing its first leads.

Hugh­es most re­cent­ly head­ed phar­ma­col­o­gy at Ver­tex’s Ox­ford­shire of­fice, hav­ing cut his teeth in drug dis­cov­ery at Eli Lil­ly. The em­pha­sis on lean and ef­fec­tive project lead­er­ship he’s used to is very much present at Pathios, he said, where he will be man­ag­ing a small team work­ing with a cadre of ex­ter­nal part­ners.

“It re­al­ly is a very fo­cused tech­ni­cal small mol­e­cule drug dis­cov­ery ef­fort,” Hugh­es told End­points News.

Ear­li­er this year the biotech brought in Syg­na­ture Dis­cov­ery to hunt for mod­u­la­tors of GPR65, lever­ag­ing the CRO’s med­i­c­i­nal chem­istry ex­per­tise and screen­ing tools. The CRO took a small stake in Pathios as part of the pay­ment.

Stu­art Hugh­es

The idea be­hind their laser-fo­cused pur­suit of GPR65 has two di­men­sions: Not on­ly does GPR65 ap­pear to be char­ac­ter­is­tic of cer­tain T helper 17 cell pop­u­la­tions that re­port­ed­ly con­tribute to the pathol­o­gy of au­toim­mune con­di­tions such as anky­los­ing spondyli­tis and pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, but it al­so ap­pears to dri­ve tu­mor as­so­ci­at­ed macrophages “to adopt a phe­no­type that sup­ports can­cer im­mune eva­sion,” ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

As GPR65 tends to be ac­tive in acidic en­vi­ron­ments, Hugh­es added, can­cers that are par­tic­u­lar­ly gly­colyt­ic — ones that pro­duce lac­tic acid — such as ad­vanced melanoma could be es­pe­cial­ly suit­ed for this ap­proach.

“We are now on the verge of clear­ly defin­ing the bi­o­log­i­cal process­es GPR65 con­trols, (its) ge­net­ic links to dis­ease and how small mol­e­cules can mod­u­late its sig­nalling,” Mc­Carthy said in a state­ment.

While the spe­cial prop­er­ties of GPR65 present some unique chal­lenges, “the good thing is GPCRs ob­vi­ous­ly are a very drug­gable tar­get class,” Hugh­es said.

Canaan Part­ners, which led the Se­ries A for Grey Wolf in Feb­ru­ary and had backed Spinifex, al­so played a promi­nent role here along­side Canaan and Aus­tralia’s Med­ical Re­search Com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion Fund man­aged by Bran­don Cap­i­tal.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 107,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 man­u­fac­tur­ing roundup: Mary­land looks to grow biotech ca­pac­i­ty with $400M check; Rus­sia lands sec­ond Sput­nik V part­ner this week

A Maryland real estate project has added three new biotech-focused manufacturing and research buildings to an office park to keep up with demand created by the pandemic, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The Milestone Business Park — located off of I-270 in Germantown, MD — will see the new buildings and a total of 532,000 square feet as the campus rebrands to Milestone Innovation Park.

Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.

Steffen Schuster, ITM CEO

Ra­dio­phar­ma re­mains hot as Ger­many's ITM rais­es $109M to ad­vance neu­roen­docrine can­cer pro­gram

The world of radiopharmaceuticals has been heating up over the last few years, and Thursday saw another company focused on the field pull in a new nine-figure raise.

Germany’s ITM, or Isotopen Technologien München, scored a $109 million round of loan financing to push forward its precision oncology pipeline and fund late-stage development for its lead program. As part of the agreement, the loan will convert to shares in the event of future financial or corporate transactions, ITM said.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.