Avalon and GlaxoSmithKline Bankroll Three More Biotech Startups

Published: Jun 17, 2015

Avalon and GlaxoSmithKline Bankroll Three More Biotech Startups
June 15, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

SAN DIEGO -- GlaxoSmithKline and investment firm Avalon Ventures have agreed to bankroll three new biotech startups with $30 million in seed funding, Reuters reported Monday morning. The joint venture brings the total of financed startups to six.

The three new startups, Adrenergics, CadheRx Therapeutics and Calporta Therapeutics, will each receive $10 million in the startup funds, as well as plus research support to help advance their work in developing new treatments for heart disease, cancer and certain genetic disorders.

The funding is part of a two-year-old $495 million partnership between the England-based Glaxo and Avalon Ventures that was formed in 2013.

Adrenergics is focusing on treatments for dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the muscle of the heart, in patients that do not respond to existing therapies. The company is focusing on a medication that targets the progression of the disease.

CadheRx is developing therapeutic antibodies targeting soluble E-cadherin (sEcad) for treatment of solid tumors resistant to other treatments, particularly Cetuximab and Herceptin resistant epithelial cancers, Avalon said in a statement.

Calporta is developing selective small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for the treatment of Niemann-Pick C Disease (NPC) and other lysosomal storage diseases.

The three companies will each be located at an innovation centre established by Avalon in San Diego.

There was no information provided on the number of employees each startup will use.

Glaxo and Avalon have a goal of creating 10 startups. The three new companies announced Monday bring the total to six.

Under terms of the agreement between Glaxo and Avalon, the British pharmaceutical company has the option to acquire the startup companies when they identify “promising drug candidates for clinical testing,” Reuters said.

If Glaxo passes, the startups remain under the Avalon umbrella and give that company options to strike deals with other pharmaceutical companies looking to expand their pipelines.

Each of the companies is provided with operational support from Avalon’s COI Pharmaceuticals. COI was established to provide leadership as well as a research and development facility.

The first company launched through the collaboration was Sitari Pharmaceuticals, which was established in November 2013. Sitari is targeting the Transglutaminase 2 (TG2) pathway for the development of treatments for multiple disease indications, with an initial focus in celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disease caused by intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.

In 2014 the companies launched Silarus Therapeutics, Inc. and Thyritope Biosciences, Inc. Both of those companies received $10 million in seed funding as well as research support. Silarus Therapeutics is developing therapeutics targeting erythroferrone, a hormone that regulates the iron supply for red blood cell production, for the treatment of iron deficiency and iron overload disorders.

Thyritope Biosciences is developing therapeutics that target thyroid stimulating auto-antibodies, which are the causative drivers of Graves’ hyperthyroidism and Graves’ orbitopathy.

The launch of the three companies comes on the heels of several successes for GlaxoSmithKline, including federal regulatory backing for two new asthma drugs mepolizumab and Breo Ellipta.

Earlier this month the company announced plans to consolidate most of its research and development operations in North America, shifting much of it to Upper Providence, Penn., near Philadelphia. The changes are expected to be completed by the end of 2019 and will more than double its 1,500 employees in the Upper Providence site.

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