Pfizer re-ups on Mission Therapeutics collaboration, leading a $15M round and grabbing first dibs on DUBs
Seven years after Pfizer first invested in Mission Therapeutics, a biotech that researches selectively inhibiting deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs), the pharma giant is re-upping its commitment to the company in another sign of confidence in the field of protein degradation.
Pfizer’s VC arm is heading up a $15 million round, announced Monday morning, and increasing its overall stake in Mission. Pfizer is also entering into a licensing agreement that would give it first dibs at negotiating exclusivity after accessing certain DUB inhibitors and screening them for their potential as drugs.
Mission’s lead DUB programs such as USP30, which is being studied to treat acute kidney injuries, pulmonary fibrosis and mitochondrial diseases, will not be affected by this agreement.
Investment into protein degradation has heated up over the last several years as the technology can potentially have wide-ranging applications. Pfizer itself inked a deal in early 2018 with Arvinas, one of the pioneers, tied to $830 million in milestones, which followed a $650 million agreement Arvinas reached with Genentech just a few months earlier.
Pfizer’s first investment in Mission headlined a $32 million Series B for the biotech. Mission, which completed its Series C fundraising in 2016 and has also received funding from Roche, Sofinnova and IPGroup, has now raised over $100 million to date. Mission also partnered with AbbVie in late 2018 to research and develop DUB inhibitors to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The DUB family contains about 100 different proteins and collectively function as a natural waste disposal system for cells. DUBs have recently become appealing targets for small molecule drug discovery because they contain a well-defined active site. However, false positives for hits can frequently appear in testing due to the method in which DUBs transfer ubiquitin molecules.
Mission’s tech platform promises to more easily screen for such false positives, eliminating them as early as possible. Additionally, given that the complexity of the DUB mechanisms can make them often hard to identify, Mission has developed a DUB-specific compound library to overcome this challenge.