Medicxi splashes more funding into Janpix’s STAT protein degrader program

Three years after giving University of Toronto professor Patrick Gunning a $19 million launch round to start Janpix, Medicxi is reaching deeper into its pockets to nudge the biotech’s first STAT protein degrader into the clinic.

On Wednesday, Cambridge, MA-based Janpix announced the closing of a modest $10 million Series B led by Medicxi. Roman Fleck — CEO and Medicxi venture advisor — says the funding will see the company’s first candidate to human testing, and expand its pipeline of STAT3 and STAT5 protein degraders.

A steady stream of funding has flowed into protein degradation this year. Back in March, Nurix and Kymera scooped up a total of $222 million in consecutive days. And a month later, Amphista launched with a $7.5 million Series A and help from field expert Alessio Ciulli. C4 Therapeutics, meanwhile, landed its IPO just days ago. The general idea is to make entire proteins disappear — rather than just blocking their kinase binding sites — by using the body’s garbage disposal system.

“Selective protein degradation is emerging as a new therapeutic paradigm and it will have a major impact on how we treat serious diseases,” Sandy Zweifach, chairman of the Janpix board and venture partner at Medicxi, said in a statement. “Janpix’s small molecules present a new modality to achieve protein degradation and will likely expand the range of proteins that can be efficiently targeted.”

Janpix’s lead program, for “various hematological cancers,” targets both STAT3 and STAT5, short for the signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins that have a role in cancer development. Gunning has linked STAT3, for instance, to the promotion of tumor growth and drug resistance in glioblastoma. Back in 2017, he said his work was shaping up to fight aggressive blood, brain and breast cancers, according to a University of Toronto report.

In June, the biotech brought data to the European Hematology Association and American Association for Cancer Research virtual meetings showing that its candidate JPX-1188 degraded STAT3 & STAT5 in leukemic cells. The drug achieved a sustained degradation of greater than 90% after 2 hours, according to Janpix. Plus, results showed significant tumor regression in an AML mouse model, it announced.

Gunning said in a statement:

As Janpix advances our STAT3/5 degraders towards the clinic, we continue to expand our understanding of the biological impact of dual STAT3/5 degradation … Our data also highlight the potential for STAT3/5 degraders to treat a broader set of leukemia patients, as most leukemic primary patient samples tested responded to our compounds.

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