Markus Warmuth (Monte Rosa)

Monte Rosa pulls in $95M to test its 'mol­e­c­u­lar glues,' and the first tar­get is GSPT1

Pro­tein degra­da­tion has been a fundrais­ing hotbed in re­cent years, with in­vestors drool­ing over the po­ten­tial to drug the “un­drug­gable.” Al­ready an in­vestor dar­ling, Monte Rosa Ther­a­peu­tics and its “mol­e­c­u­lar glues” are go­ing back to the well with the clin­ic on the hori­zon — and the biotech’s fi­nal­ly re­veal­ing its first tar­get.

Monte Rosa hauled in a $95 mil­lion Se­ries C to pave the way for its lead pro­tein de­grad­er pro­gram to make a run to the clin­ic and flesh out its pipeline, the biotech said Fri­day. The round was led by Avoro Cap­i­tal Ad­vi­sors.

Un­like oth­er small mol­e­cule de­graders such as PRO­TAC that func­tion much like in­hibitors, Monte Rosa’s de­graders help bind E3 lig­as­es — an en­zyme laden with ubiq­ui­tin, a key reg­u­la­to­ry pro­tein in the degra­da­tion process — with tar­get­ed dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins. The re­sult­ing “glue” avoids the need for avail­able bind­ing sites, which are im­pos­si­ble to hit on the so-called “un­drug­gable” pro­teins.

Monte Rosa’s lead pro­gram, which the biotech hopes to take in­to IND en­abling stud­ies by the mid­dle of the year, will tar­get GSPT1, a reg­u­la­to­ry pro­tein im­pli­cat­ed in the syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty of sol­id tu­mor cells, CEO Markus War­muth told End­points News. It’s the first time the com­pa­ny is show­ing its hand in terms of an ini­tial tar­get af­ter stay­ing mum through two pri­or fund­ing rounds.

The biotech plans to use the pro­ceeds to scale its drug dis­cov­ery plat­form for nov­el tar­gets as well as build its trans-At­lantic team in Boston and Basel, Switzer­land, War­muth said. Since the biotech last closed its $96 mil­lion Se­ries B in Sep­tem­ber, Monte Rosa has worked out the kinks in its dis­cov­ery plat­form and is ready to keep build­ing.

“The big break­throughs over the last six months have re­al­ly been on plat­form,” he said. “We now have good val­i­da­tion that our com­pu­ta­tion­al ap­proach … has worked out, and we’re look­ing to re­al­ly scale the plat­form ag­gres­sive­ly now.”

Pro­tein degra­da­tion has turned in­to a hotbed of in­vest­ment in re­cent years, but “mol­e­c­u­lar glues” them­selves aren’t brand new. Lep­rosy ther­a­py thalido­mide, first ap­proved way back in 1998, func­tions the same way but found its mech­a­nism of ac­tion large­ly by ac­ci­dent. Mean­while, oth­er pro­tein de­graders such as PRO­TAC look to ac­com­plish the same thing by act­ing as a func­tion­al link­er be­tween the pro­tein re­cep­tor and ubiq­ui­tin en­zyme.

That struc­ture makes PRO­TAC larg­er than mol­e­c­u­lar glues, which can lim­it its drug-like prop­er­ties and low­er its op­ti­miza­tion for spe­cif­ic tar­gets, War­muth said.

With its dis­cov­ery plat­form grow­ing, War­muth re­mained mum on where his team was look­ing for its next tar­gets, but did point specif­i­cal­ly to tran­scrip­tion fac­tor pro­teins that bind to DNA to turn cer­tain genes “on” or “off.” Those pro­teins are an ob­vi­ous tar­get due to the vast ma­jor­i­ty of them be­ing und­drug­gable.

“In our pool of tar­gets we have dis­cov­ered, there’s a clear en­rich­ment for tran­scrip­tion fac­tors,” War­muth said. “We’re not lim­it­ed to tran­scrip­tion fac­tors, but that’s a fam­i­ly that is par­tic­u­lar­ly at­trac­tive.”

Monte Rosa will have a hard time dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing it­self in a mol­e­c­u­lar glue field packed with com­peti­tors. In De­cem­ber, Neo­morph, a Dana-Far­ber-backed play at the field, snared a $105 mil­lion Se­ries A. Ear­li­er in the month, Ab­b­Vie placed a $55 mil­lion up­front bet on Fron­tier Med­i­cines to de­vel­op drug can­di­dates tar­get­ing E3 lig­as­es. Fron­tier will al­so be scout­ing small mol­e­cule binders to tar­get, Ab­b­Vie said.

Oth­er drug­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Sanofi, Roche, Bay­er, Gilead and Ver­tex, have all inked their own pro­tein degra­da­tion pacts in the re­cent past.

Un­lock­ing ESG strate­gies for growth with Gilead Sci­ences

RBC Capital Markets explores what is material in ESG for biopharma companies with the ESG leads at Gilead Sciences. Gilead has long focused on sustainability but recognized a more robust framework was needed. Based on a materiality assessment, Gilead’s ESG strategy today focuses first on drug access and pricing, while also addressing D&I and climate change. Find out why Gilead’s board is “acutely aware” of the contribution that ESG makes to firm’s overall success.

On the hunt for the next Mod­er­na, in­vestors have pumped 'plat­form plays' with cash. Can any­thing slow the run­away train?

It didn’t take an expert to see that mRNA platforms could be huge.

Julie Sunderland partnered with both Moderna and BioNTech about a decade ago while she was running program-related investments for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and even then the potential for their platforms was obvious despite some well-founded concerns about whether the next-gen tech would ever cross the finish line.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Con­sor­tium of 5 drug reg­u­la­tors plot path to in­crease har­mo­niza­tion through 2024

A group of drug regulators from Australia, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland and the UK on Tuesday unveiled their strategic plans for the next three years, laying out how they’ll work together on reviewing new drugs to reduce duplication across borders.

While understanding that the biopharma industry is truly global, the group, known collectively as the Access Consortium, seeks to better align their respective regulatory and policy approaches for pharmaceuticals, with an aim to facilitate faster access to high quality, safe and effective health products.

Neu­rona Ther­a­peu­tics is dash­ing to the clin­ic with its cell ther­a­py for epilep­sy — but first, an­oth­er ven­ture round

Six years ago, a band of neuroscientists from the University of California, San Francisco combined decades of research and jumped into the hunt for an off-the-shelf cell therapy. Now, that team is sprinting toward the clinic with a treatment for epilepsy — but first, it’s making a pit stop at the venture well.

Neurona Therapeutics unveiled a $41.5 million round on Tuesday morning, bringing the San Francisco-based biotech’s total raise to $135 million. The cash will be used to advance the company’s pipeline, including an upcoming Phase I/IIa for its lead candidate, NRTX-1001, in chronic focal epilepsy.

Viswa Colluru, Enveda Biosciences

A Re­cur­sion vet­er­an is map­ping plant life to chart a course to new ther­a­pies — and in­vestors like what they see

One of the earliest employees at AI biotech Recursion Pharmaceuticals is leading a new company, and he’s just closed a hefty Series A to get things moving.

Enveda Biosciences pulled in $51 million in the raise, the company announced Tuesday morning, with the goal of pushing some of its preclinical programs further along. Led by CEO Viswa Colluru, Enveda aims to research how machine learning can utilize natural biology to create new therapies for Wilson’s Disease, NASH and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) with reporters in the Senate Subway (Graeme Sloan/Sipa via AP Images)

Top Wyden pri­or­i­ty for drug price re­forms: Medicare ne­go­ti­a­tions

As the Biden administration tries to wrangle the details of its infrastructure bill, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) took a concrete step forward on drug pricing reforms on Tuesday and unveiled five principles for such reforms, including providing Medicare with the ability to negotiate prices.

“Allowing the Secretary of HHS to negotiate the price Medicare will pay creates a much needed mechanism to achieve fairer prices when the market has failed to do so,” Wyden wrote.

End­points News is now 5 years old. Here's how you can sup­port us for the next phase of growth

Endpoints News turned five years old over the weekend. I wanted to mark the happy occasion by extending our deepest gratitude to Endpoints’ premium subscribers while outlining several other ways to support us as we go broader and get bigger this year and beyond.

Same as any business, we’ve got to create value and get paid for delivering it. So if you depend on Endpoints to stay abreast on biopharma developments, we depend on you too.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

Ac­tivist in­vestor El­liott in talks with oth­er Glax­o­SmithK­line in­vestors about re­plac­ing Em­ma Walm­s­ley, spin­ning off vac­cine busi­ness — re­port

As Emma Walmsley reveals details this Wednesday about the upcoming split of GlaxoSmithKline’s pharma and consumer units, some tough questions may be coming her way.

Elliott Management, the activist investor that’s previously threatened an attack on GSK (but eventually backed off), is floating more radical changes like replacing the CEO, further breaking up the company and spinning out the vaccine unit, or reviewing the focus on cancer drugs, the Financial Times reported.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 109,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Fred Upton and Diana DeGette

New DARPA-like NIH agency preps for re­al­i­ty as E&C un­veils bi­par­ti­san Cures 2.0 draft bill

House Energy & Commerce leaders Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) on Tuesday released new draft legislation with wide-ranging implications for public health, the FDA, NIH, and that would create a new, $6.5 billion federal advanced research agency under NIH, with an aim to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s and other difficult diseases.

Similar to DARPA, the new NIH division to be known as ARPA-H, would be run by a small group of program managers with more latitude to pursue high-risk, high-reward projects that other government agencies would likely shy away from.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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