Prometheus Bio is ready for its close-up shot, following a $130M round to back IBD drugs now headed to the clinic
A little over a year ago, Takeda lined up a deal to collaborate with a low-profile San Diego upstart called Prometheus Biosciences on a string of new drugs for inflammatory bowel disease. The pharma player tossed an undisclosed upfront and up to $420 million in milestones to get the alliance started.
These days, preclinical deals are common, milestones are hazy markers of financial health and the pact didn’t get a lot of attention. But that obscurity should start to dissipate this week.
Today, Prometheus, which had been created by the acquisition of Prometheus Labs by Precision IBD, is showing off a whopping $130 million raise from some familiar biotech investors jumping in to stretch the runway at the 4-year-old preclinical biotech out into 2023, when CEO Mark McKenna is promising to have 3-4 IBD drugs either in the clinic or IND ready. The first of those clinical programs is slated to begin in a matter of weeks, putting McKenna’s team on track to their first round of human data.
Spun out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the company built a considerable portion of its scientific foundation around the work of Stephan Targan, an IBD specialist who founded the IBD Center at the medical center some 28 years ago.
“We leveraged this big data set built over 20 years to identify new targets in IBD and develop companion diagnostics for the drugs,” says McKenna, citing 20,000 samples in the data bank. Using bioinformatics tech, they have been working on spotlighting targeted therapeutics that can do better — in a much more durable fashion — than the current generation of IBD drugs.
Their lead program — PRA023 — is an anti-TL1A antibody. But they’re not alone. Pfizer has a similar program. But McKenna has ambitions to build a broad pipeline around IBD.
“We believe we can put out a new target every year,” he tells me.
You may recall that McKenna spent a 4-year stretch focused on Bausch sub Salix Pharmaceuticals, where he won kudos for the turnaround work he accomplished there. Once seen as a possible successor to Bausch chief Joe Papa, he now wants to take this new company all the way through to commercialization. And Papa has joined his board at Prometheus, watching the work from a front-row seat.
It was Prometheus chairman Tachi Yamada, a legend in the biotech business, who reached out to McKenna to see if he would be interested in running Prometheus, after watching his work at Salix.
Yamada, no doubt, also played a role in bringing together a large syndicate of investors.
Eventide Asset Management and RTW Investments led the round with a slate of new investors: Perceptive Advisors, Cormorant Capital, Cowen Healthcare Investments, Point72 Asset management and Irving Investors. Then there are the existing investors: Ascend Global Investment Fund, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Nestlé SA. Joy Ghosh of Eventide Asset Management and Adam Stone of Perceptive Advisors will be joining the Prometheus board to watch over their investments.
They’re backing a company that has grown to 125 staffers, in a market that might suggest they’re thinking about an IPO.