Former Blueprint vets take their new biotech out of stealth, with STAT3 in their sights
A new biotech going after STAT mutations through a previously undruggable target emerged from stealth and secured its first fundraise Monday, introducing its freshly minted CEO in the process.
Recludix Pharma, a San Diego biotech launched by a founding team of Blueprint Medicines vets, pulled in a $60 million Series A on Monday, promising investors a path to the holy grail STAT3 mutation through what’s called the SH2 domain. Taking over as chief executive is Nancy Whiting, arriving after a 15-year run at Seagen that saw her run corporate strategy and late-stage development at various points.
Investors in the round included NEA, Westlake Village BioPartners, and Access Industries.
Recludix’s founders had worked together before Blueprint, but came together to develop the biotech’s “kinome scan” technology and apply it to drug discovery, Whiting told Endpoints News. Led by Blueprint scientific founder Nick Lydon, the group thought it could use a similar technology while integrating a new selectivity tool and encoded DNA libraries, allowing for much deeper analyses.
Whiting said the process is an iterative design, allowing the biotech to decide where and how exactly to modify different molecules. The team can screen anywhere from one million to one billion molecules at once, she said.
Thus Recludix was birthed, initially getting off the ground in December 2019. The company’s main focus is developing SH2 domain inhibitors, found in a group of about 120 different human proteins. Researchers have previously pegged the domain as a “really good target to drug,” Whiting said, but faced some challenges along the way.
“It’s kind of a flat protein, there’s not a lot of nooks and crannies for a drug to find inside and hook into,” Whiting said in an interview.
Chief among the proteins implicated by SH2 is the STAT family, which includes the STAT3 cancer mutation long considered a holy grail target — Whiting said 70% of all cancers have that STAT3 mutation. But Recludix will also spend time looking at other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases where STAT might prove important, she stressed.
Recludix is launching with three discovery programs, two of which are planned to target STAT3 and STAT6. The third candidate will be developed for a non-STAT target, but Whiting isn’t revealing much more at this point. While she noted the STAT candidates are in the lead optimization phase, they’re not quite ready for INDs.
The CEO also said the Series A likely won’t be enough to get the programs into the clinic and that Recludix isn’t disclosing how much runway this raise will give.
Initially, though, the goal will be developing orally available compounds for these tough-to-treat diseases. Recludix’s plan is to start in later-line patients whose cancers have progressed on the standard of care, but it’s still too early to make any sweeping conclusions.
Though it’s tackling STAT through SH2, Recludix will join a slate of biotechs trying to solve the holy grail puzzle. The Houston startup Tvardi nabbed a $74 million Series B back in June to advance its STAT3 efforts, and the Sanofi-partnered Kymera and Medicxi’s Janpix, now part of Centessa, are undertaking similar projects.