Anthony Coyle started Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation with an eye to changing the way the pharma giant went about the business of drug discovery. And then after leaving last summer and joining the great migration out of Big Pharma, he switched into a new role as biotech CEO — where he gets to take a more hands-on role in that struggle.
Coyle is at the helm of a new startup called Pandion Therapeutics, one of the latest arrivals in the bustling Cambridge, MA hub, where Polaris seeded a group of about 12 researchers who have been looking to take some of the many lessons learned from immuno-oncology and then reverse engineering the technology for anti-inflammatory or autoimmune drugs.
“There have been tremendous advances in understanding how the immune system interplays with the tumor,” Coyle tells me. And Pandion’s objectives, inspired in part by co-founder and immunology expert David Sachs, “resonated with (chief scientist) Jo Viney and myself.”
Viney was previously senior vice president of drug discovery and VP of immunology research for Biogen, and had earlier worked at Amgen.
“It will be fascinating if we can shift the paradigm on developing new drugs,” says the CEO.
The big idea here is that the company believes it can create a set of bispecific antibodies that will allow for targeted, localized modulation of the immune system, with one arm of the bispecific binding to molecules expressed at the site of inflammation.
That kind of work has applications for inflammatory bowel disease as well as autoimmune diseases of the liver, to start with.
Polaris entrepreneurship partner Alan Crane helped arrange the seed money and gathered the syndicate together for today’s announcement of the $58 million launch round. Polaris is in the co-lead position with Versant Ventures and Roche Venture Fund. GlaxoSmithKline’s SR One and BioInnovation Capital also chipped in on the round.
The money should be enough to get beyond the first 2 or 3 years of the startup phase, says Coyle, with enough cash to move programs out of the preclinical stage and into the clinic. And he wouldn’t be surprised to see the first partnership come together this year, as the team doubles up in size.
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