Big investments in protein degradation, the process of unlocking previously “undruggable” binding sites for novel therapeutics, are nothing new with some of pharma’s biggest players already dabbling in the field. But a new biotech backed by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute believes its “molecular glue” platform could help it stand out — and it’s got the funding to test its hypothesis.
Neomorph, a biotech specializing in the buzzy field of protein degradation, has snared a $105 million Series A financing round to scale up its R&D team and hunt for new medicines in a range of therapeutic areas, particularly oncology, the company said Tuesday.
A Deerfield Management Company startup that launched in early 2020, Neomorph has zeroed in on “molecular glue” degraders, molecules that cause proteins to interact in ways not normally seen, as a potential shot at “undruggable” proteins that lack suitable binding pockets for agonist/inhibitor use and may have an effect on a range of diseases. The company’s scientific brain trust, most notably Celgene veteran and CSO Phil Chamberlain, are experts in the “molecular glue” field, Neomorph said.
The biotech plans to use its early-stage round to help expand its R&D team as well as build its discovery platform and advance lead candidates, Neomorph said. The rest of the company’s founding team includes Eric Fischer, Benjamin Ebert and Scott Armstrong.
Neomorph will lean on a “close” collaboration with Dana-Farber’s Center for Protein Degradation, including kick-starting the company with three Dana-Farber vets: Fischer, Ebert and Armstrong.
“I am humbled to be a part of a team poised to make real strides in advancing the science,” said Fischer, a Dana-Farber investigator and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, in a release. “We believe we are in an excellent position to take our technology to the next level with the ultimate goal of delivering transformative treatments to patients in need.”
Neomorph will enter an emergent protein degradation field with a suite of Big Pharma backers already on board — all in pursuit of novel pathways to target protein binding sites that have big implications for a raft of therapeutic areas.
Earlier this month, pharma giant AbbVie placed a $55 million upfront bet on Frontier Medicines to develop drug candidates targeting E3 ligases — a key member of the body’s natural degradation system. Frontier will also be scouting small molecule binders to target, AbbVie said.
Meanwhile, Sanofi, Roche, Bayer, Gilead and Vertex have all inked their own protein degradation pacts in the recent past, signaling a full-out onslaught at the field. But there have been cracks in those plans: Just last month, Roche handed back the rights to an EGFR targeting protein degradation program to C4 Therapeutics, which it has partnered with since 2016. That move came after Roche significantly scaled back the program in 2018, limiting its interest to six potential programs.