French upstart Step Pharma raises €8.6M, taking immunosuppressive drugs to the clinic
Paris startup Step Pharma has scored €8.6 million in a deal led by a new investor to help bring its small-molecule immunosuppressive drugs into clinical trials for autoimmune disease.
The new cash comes in part from Pontifax Venture Capital, and is added to Step’s first tranche of €5.9 million led by Kuma Partners last year, bringing the startup’s total Series A raise to €14.5 million.
The money will be used to bring Step’s novel class of oral immunomodulaters into the clinic.
The company, founded in 2014, is pursuing a novel target called the cytidine triphosphate synthase 1 (CTPS1), which was discovered at the Imagine Institute in Paris in patients with rare genetic diseases who had a deficiency in this enzyme involved in CTP nucleotide production.
“There is a long, established history of using nucleotide synthesis inhibitors to treat autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or psoriasis, but their clinical use is limited due to lack of tissue selectivity,” said Geoffroy de Ribains, CEO and co-founder of Step Pharma, in a statement. “Targeting CTPS1 should allow selective modulation of specific immune cell populations, such as T and B cells, without affecting other tissues, which should translate to better efficacy and an improved therapeutic index.”
Step Pharma is a spin-off of the Imagine Institute, stemming from Alain Fischer’s research on genetic immunodeficiencies. The company is a joint venture between Imagine and Sygnature Discovery, a company that does integrated drug discovery, and Kurma Partners, a biotech investor in Europe.
Step has come pretty far with a relatively small amount of capital. The company has built a proprietary assay platform, discovered its first series of CTPS1 compounds, and showed initial proof of concept in vivo.
“Step Pharma is exploring a completely new paradigm for the treatment of autoimmune diseases,” said Vanessa Malier of Kurma Partners in a statement. “The rare combination of a clinically validated target, a novel mechanism of action, and a significant unmet medical need led us to create the company with the Imagine Institute and Sygnature Discovery, and we are excited to see the program progress. The ability of Step Pharma to attract Pontifax confirms the potential of this approach.”