ValenzaBio's oncology island of misfit toys snares $70M after toiling behind the scenes for months
David Maizenberg’s imagination sparked when he came across a monoclonal antibody from Cancer Research UK’s reject pile.
The CD19-targeting mAb, originally discovered by Merck Serono, didn’t perform as well as the organization hoped against B cell malignancies. But it could have value, Maizenberg hypothesized, in autoimmune disease.
The life sciences consultant and marketer entered talks with Cancer Research UK in the summer of 2019 about licensing the candidate — and in December, he and Patrick Crutcher (a former associate of Martin Shkreli) launched ValenzaBio to “find a better home” for former oncology candidates in autoimmune and inflammatory indications.
The company kept quiet for the most part, until bursting onto the scene on Thursday with a hefty $70 million Series A round and plans to take their lead candidate — now called VB119 — into the clinic this quarter.
The company is pursuing an OK in membranous nephropathy, a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the filtering membranes in the kidney. ValenzaBio plans on initiating an open-label Phase Ib/IIa study this quarter, as well as submitting a clinical trial application in the UK.
“MN can lead to disabling and, in some cases, life-threatening complications for patients; and given the lack of any FDA-approved therapies today, VB119 has an opportunity to impact the lives of patients with this rare disease,” CSO Stephen Thomas said in a statement.
ValenzaBio’s second candidate, VB421, which it licensed from Pierre Fabre in March, is a mAb directed to insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R) in development for thyroid eye disease. It’s designed to bind to IGF-1R, which when overexpressed or activated within orbital fibroblasts is believed to have a hand in the progression of TED. That one’s headed to the clinic in the first half of 2022, Maizenberg said.
The company declined to release the financial terms of either licensing deal.
“The company has always been driven by other assets,” chief strategy officer William Bonificio said, adding that they’re constantly looking for new things. “We’re drug hunters at our core.”
The Series A was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company and Ikarian Capital, with help from Surveyor Capital, Janus Henderson Investors and Opaleye Management. Pierre Fabre will also take an equity stake in the company as part its recent license agreement.
Correction: The round was led by Fidelity and Ikarian.