News briefing: Novo eyes the next kinases in a Finnish startup; Boehringer Ingelheim brings a bispecific to the clinic
Novo Seeds’ Jeroen Bakker thinks he’s found the next kinases.
The early stage, European VC firm announced yesterday they led a $9 million seed round for Rappta Therapeutics, a Finnish biotech developing inhibitors for an enzyme called PP2A — protein phosphatase 2 — that Bakker thinks now hold the same kind of drug targeting potential as kinases did two decades ago for cancer.
“Since the introduction of Gleevec, it’s always been about kinases,” Bakker told Endpoints News, referring to the best-selling Novartis drug, first approved in 2001. “But we’ve forgotten that phosphotases are also important.”
Phosphotases, like kinases, are enzymes involved in signaling throughout the cell. Scientists have long known that PP2A held potential as a cancer target, but they had struggled to drug it because they didn’t understand the protein’s structure, said CEO Mikko Mannerkoski.
Mannerkoski said, however, that Rappta had developed a “map” of the protein that should allow them to find new ways of targeting it, including allosterically. That’s helped give them the kind of structural insight into the protein that scientists developed for kinases, Bakker argued.
The biotech’s small team has so far developed a series of potential drug candidates and are entering the lead optimization phase. Mannerkoski declined to name the cancers they’d pursue or give a firm timeline but said they would try to enter the clinic on a normal drug development schedule — i.e. a couple years.
“It has been extremely difficult to address pharmaceutically and the main difficulty has been the lack of structural understanding,” he told Endpoints. “We believe that we now have a ‘map,’ so to speak, that we can use to rationally design drugs.” — Jason Mast
Boehringer Ingelheim brings bispecific into the clinic
Now that the first patient has been dosed in a Phase I trial of a bispecific antibody for small cell lung carcinoma and other neoplasms — with a target discovered during the first phase of a partnership between Boehringer Ingelheim and Oxford Bio — the collaborators are going back to the drawing board together.
The two groups have expanded their initial search for new tumor targets the German pharma company can use with its T-cell engager, cancer vaccine and oncolytic virus platforms.
There are no terms on display here, but Boehringer — which has tapped two programs for development so far — will have development and commercialization rights for anything that goes into the clinic. And OBT didn’t miss the chance of touting their science.
“We view the hopeful discovery of additional tumor targets as further confirmation of the value of our OGAP platform to identify novel targets that can be substrates for innovative new therapies,” said Christian Rohlff, the CEO at OBT. — John Carroll
Nimbus brings in 2 new investors to back its latest raise as the lead TYK2 drug points to a PhIIb
Nimbus Therapeutics has brought in a couple of new investors for their latest raise. RA Capital — a ubiquitous player that’s been having a heyday batting biotechs into Nasdaq — joined with BVF to lead a $60 million round.
Nimbus made its rep crafting new programs bought up by the major players. Now it’s been building its own pipeline, and the execs in charge have been touting early TYK2 data as they line up a Phase IIb trial.
Peter Kolchinsky at RA says the lead program at Nimbus is “one of only two clinical allosteric approaches to TYK2 inhibition.” — John Carroll