Startups

Neil Kumar’s BridgeBio lines up subsidiary No. 9 with a $27M shot at TTR amyloidosis

Neil Kumar

Neil Kumar — ex-McKinsey, ex-Third Rock, ex-BD guy at MyoKardia — set out to build a different kind of biotech when he started BridgeBio a couple of years ago.

Looking at the money that was already available for platform plays and late-stage drug work, he was interested in finding new money to go after early-stage assets. So he adopted an oil company strategy, laying out the prospects for a biotech outfit that would focus on what we’ve learned from genetics discovery over the past decade, then plucking single assets that could be compartmentalized in subsidiaries.

Rather than one wildcatter operation looking to drill one well, Kumar wanted to build a virtual team that could drill a number of wells — looking for the few that could be a gusher.

It was a matter of more “shots on goal,” says Kumar, who got some help from MIT’s Andrew Lo in defining the company. “People get more interested in that kind of diversification.”

Frank McCormick

Lo also invested in the company, which Kumar co-founded with Frank McCormick, the former co-founder of Onyx Pharmaceuticals.

Rather than chase down and incubate drugs for industry buyers, much like Inception from Versant or the other venture umbrella groups out there, he wanted to build a focused company that has the potential to go on like Ultragenyx or say BioMarin and build a commercial organization.

‘There are a lot of early-stage, single asset plays that sit on a decade of genomic discovery,” Kumar tells me. And that strategy brought Perceptive Life Sciences and KKR into the fold with their financial support.

Kumar and his team, which includes some part-timers like Third Rock’s Charles Homcy, have been flying under the radar mostly. But today he’s unveiling his ninth subsidiary operation, which neatly characterizes the kind of deals he’s been setting up.

This new creation has been dubbed Eidos Therapeutics, and its single asset is AG10, a small molecule therapy for transthyretin (TTR) amyloidosis, a field that Alnylam and Ionis have both tackled, running into some serious safety issues along the way.

Isabella Graef

The drug comes out of the work of Isabella Graef at Stanford and Mamoun Alhamadsheh, the company scientific co-founders, who have been nailing down preclinical evidence that the drug can stabilize TTR and prevent the cascade of events that causes the disease — a disease modifying approach that will now head to the clinic. BridgeBio has earmarked $27 million to pay for the first two stages of clinical development.

“It gets us through Phase II work,” says Kumar. Investigators will start by testing it in healthy volunteers, looking to clarify the way the drug works.

“Then you go right into patients, he adds. “Phase II reads out late next year.”

You can expect to see more deals at BridgeBio, he adds. This is just the beginning.


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RAPS Regulatory Convergence 2017