With 30-year industry chops, Pamela Conley launches a protein therapeutics biotech for autoimmune diseases
After about 17 years at Portola Pharmaceuticals, Pamela Conley was ready for her next venture once helping transition some of the drugmaker’s programs into Alexion in mid-to-late 2020.
Since then, she’s been setting up shop at autoimmune-focused Nuvig Therapeutics, which broke cover Wednesday with $47 million from Novo Holdings, Platanus, Bristol Myers Squibb, Digitalis Ventures and Mission BioCapital.
A 30-year biotech and pharma veteran, Conley is now at the helm of her first biotech startup based on science licensed out of the Rockefeller University lab of Jeff Ravetch, Conley told Endpoints News. The Rockefeller professor was a scientific advisor while Conley was at Portola, where she concluded as an SVP.
Ravetch has long been a contributor to the drug development field, with his lab studying antibody-Fc receptor interactions in hopes of treating inflammatory and infectious diseases. He’s co-founded Virdante Pharmaceuticals, acquired by Momenta in 2011, and is on the scientific advisory board of stem cell transplant biotech Jasper Therapeutics and a scientific advisor to infectious diseases-focused Vir Biotechnology.
Nuvig closed the Series A in November 2021 and set up its Redwood City, CA office in February, but is revealing itself today at what appears to be an ever-escalating bear market for the biotech world. Conley co-founded the startup with former Portola colleague Greg Coffey, now VP of immunology and translational research.
The team is working to bring its first molecule into the clinic at an undisclosed time. The proceeds will bankroll preclinical and Phase I work through proof of concept, Conley said, as the biotech aims to use its protein therapies to “tone down the immune response after an inflammatory event.”
“We’re developing a series of protein therapeutics that are genetically engineered to engage a class of immune regulatory receptors. These receptors naturally function to re-establish homeostasis following inflammation,” Conley said.
The company’s drug is independent of immune-suppression tactics like steroids or “other common therapies in this space,” the CEO said.
“[T]his mechanism really has the potential to be life-changing for a lot of patients who don’t have to worry about their therapies making them immunocompromised, susceptible to other diseases or even at risk for cancer, like some of the current therapies do,” Conley said.
The company’s board includes Platanus managing director Hannah Chang, Novo Ventures partner Ken Harrison and Esperion Therapeutics CEO Sheldon Koenig.