From L-R: EPFL professor Christian Heinis, Novo Holdings principal João Ribas and partner Morten Døssing

No­vo Hold­ings in­vests in macro­cy­cle start­up Or­bis as once-over­looked mol­e­cules get new in­ter­est

At long last, macro­cy­cles are spin­ning in­to the spot­light.

On Thurs­day, Or­bis Med­i­cines launched with €26 mil­lion in seed fund­ing from Eu­ro­pean VC fund For­bion and No­vo Hold­ings, the in­vest­ment arm of No­vo Nordisk’s par­ent foun­da­tion. The start­up is fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing pep­tide drugs based on macro­cy­cles, which are small chem­i­cal rings.

Most macro­cy­cle drugs, such as cy­closporine or a com­po­nent of Neosporin, have been dis­cov­ered in na­ture, but the mol­e­cules were for a long time left on the side­lines by drug de­vel­op­ers be­cause they had dif­fi­cul­ty pass­ing through mem­branes, an im­por­tant qual­i­ty for many pill-based med­i­cines. How­ev­er, re­cent ad­vances in de­sign­ing pep­tides have shown it’s pos­si­ble to over­come that ob­sta­cle and have rekin­dled in­ter­est in the po­ten­tial for macro­cyclic med­i­cines.

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