Degron Therapeutics Launches into Sizzling Hot Protein Degradation Space
Degron Co-founder and CEO Lily Zou, Ph.D/courtesy Degron Therapeutics
Shanghai-based biotechnology company Degron Therapeutics announced Thursday that it has secured $22 million in Series A financing for its unique molecular glue-based targeted protein degradation platform GlueXplorer.
Degron plans to use the funds generated from this round of investment to further develop GlueXplorer, with the goal of accelerating the discovery and development of novel drugs for targets that have previously been deemed undruggable. Proceeds will also be used to boost the company’s computational capacity for target prediction and library design, as well as to advance its existing pipeline programs, including a yet-undisclosed first-in-class drug target for oncology and inflammation.
The Series A financing round was led by Med-Fine Capital. Other participating investors included Dyee Capital, Baidu Venture and NeuX Capital, as well as Degron’s seed investors Yuanbio Venture and CO-WIN Ventures.
“Degron Therapeutics is building a platform that will unlock the future of small-molecule therapeutics,” Daniel Hu, executive director of Med-Fine, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with this world-class team as they pioneer the new frontier of molecular glue degraders and ultimately significantly improve how we treat diseases.” Along with the financing, Degron gets the expertise of Med-Fine partner Jing Yu, Ph.D., who joins Degron’s board of directors.
Founded in 2021, Degron joins a rapidly expanding therapeutic space. Using GlueXplorer, the young company has already generated a rapidly expanding library of compounds, as well as a screening system to select those with strong therapeutic potential. Currently, Degron’s growing pipeline includes preclinical compounds for cancer, inflammation and other disease areas.
Molecular glue degraders, which use small molecules to force a bond between proteins that otherwise would not interact, are better than conventional inhibitors because “they do not rely on binding pockets,” Lily Zou, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Degron, told BioSpace in an email. “We believe we are well-positioned to target previously undruggable proteins due to their lack of binding pockets for inhibitors.
“Our initial compounds address unmet needs in oncology, inflammation, metabolic disease, rare diseases and other therapeutic areas. However, we’re not restricted to any therapeutic area and are looking to collaborate with companies with expertise in therapeutic areas complimentary to our own,” she added.
Degron’s Series A success is the latest development in the fast-paced targeted protein degradation space, with at least two high-profile deals closed in the last month alone. Last week, Austria’s Proxygen entered a $554 million research collaboration and license agreement with Merck KGaA. Just weeks before, Bristol Myers Squibb added $5 billion to its existing partnership with German company Evotec, an alliance that the companies said has already produced a healthy and promising pipeline of molecular glue degraders.
“Molecular glue brings breakthrough innovation to the field of small molecule drugs, which are still the mainstay of therapeutics,” Zou said, pointing out that while gene and cell therapies may be exciting, they are typically expensive and mostly see use in cancers and rare genetic disorders. “Most chronic diseases still rely on small molecule drugs.”
However, only “approximately 20% of disease targets are druggable by conventional small-molecule inhibitors,” she added. “Molecular glue can overcome this obstacle. They’re expected to bring a new modality of treatment to previously untapped targets.”