Luca Santarelli's VectivBio buys out small Massachusetts biotech, redoubling focus on metabolic disease
Luca Santarelli moved quickly after spinning out VectivBio from Therachon, getting an IPO settled in less than two years. On Tuesday, he continued charging forward with a new buyout that will see VectivBio expand its pipeline significantly over the next year and a half.
VectivBio has acquired Comet Therapeutics for an undisclosed equity and cash sum, the biotech announced Tuesday, aiming to target a swath of rare metabolic diseases. The goal is to hit the ground running, Santarelli told Endpoints News, with four new programs expected to launch at once and plans to enter the clinic in 18 months.
“This deal is important for us but also something we’ve been planning for a long time,” Santarelli told Endpoints.
In addition to the sums paid upfront, VectivBio could be on the hook for more equity and cash payments should the new projects reach certain milestones.
As their teams start working together, VectivBio and Comet will go after a family of conditions known as inherited metabolic diseases, or IMDs. These genetic disorders result in infants being unable to properly convert food into energy, resulting in the buildup of toxic metabolites and sometimes life-threatening conditions that have limited treatment options.
Comet, however, has developed a platform to attack these diseases with a “unique” bit of chemistry, Santarelli said. By focusing on coenzyme A, an enzyme implicated in many metabolic pathways, researchers theorized a way to restore its normal function while delivering payloads specific to each IMD.
“It allows CoA to be used as a backbone,” Santarelli said of the Comet technology. “It allows for systemic administration and exposure, allows for systemic integration and can carry various cargoes into the cells.”
The first program that will come out of the acquisition will target organic acid disorders such as methylmalonic acidemia and propionic acidemia, Santarelli added. Their goal is to deliver cargo that can stimulate the disregulated metabolic pathways.
VectivBio got started back in 2019, spinning out from Theracon after Pfizer bought it out for $340 million upfront and $470 million in potential milestones. The biotech almost immediately got to work on a Phase II drug for short bowel syndrome, and Santarelli raised $110 million last October to get the program through Phase III.
He followed that up with an IPO earlier this year, and the company is expecting topline results for SBS intestinal failure in 2023. But with the Comet acquisition Tuesday, Santarelli is starting work on VectivBio’s next chapter in the meantime.
Comet launched back in 2018 and received $28.5 million in a Series A in June 2019. The Cambridge, MA-based biotech has seen investment from Sofinnova Partners, INKEF Capital, Canaan and Mission BioCapital.