Montreal-based Biotech Snags $50M to Build Team of "Drug Hunters"


Congruence Therapeutics, a Montreal-based biotechnology company, has announced a $50 million Series A financing. The new funds will go toward advancing Congruence’s Revenir™ platform, a computational tool that models diseases that come from cellular proteins misfolding in order to understand them better.

The financing was led by Amplitude Ventures and Fonds de solidarité FTQ. Other contributors included Lumira Ventures, Investissement Quebec, OrbiMed Advisors and Driehaus Capital Management. And the money came with a bonus announcement: Kenneth J. Valenzano, Ph.D. joined the company as chief scientific officer.

“This financing will allow us to build out a world-class team of 'drug hunters' to efficiently design novel small molecules for rare diseases of high unmet medical need, and progress them toward and into the clinic,” said Congruence Founder Dr. Clarissa Desjardins, Ph.D.

Protein misfolding is the cause of several devastating conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. These conditions can occur when nucleotides are folded into a three-dimensional structure as they are converted to amino acids using genetic codes, similar to how data is compressed into an MP3 file. Most of the time, this process goes smoothly—but when it doesn’t, the misfolded proteins form toxic conformations that result in diseases.

Congruence is on a mission to treat these protein diseases by using machine learning technology. The company’s proprietary computational platform, Revenir, uses machine learning and mathematical modeling to identify the misfolded proteins that cause diseases, then creates compounds to rescue the mutated proteins. The entire process is done in silico, or via computer modeling, which cuts down on early-stage testing in living organisms.

This financing win for Congruence is the latest in a long series of accomplishments for Desjardins. Previously, she was the founder and CEO of Clementia Pharmaceuticals. There, she helped develop therapies for rare pediatric bone diseases. One of those therapies was Sohonos™ (palovarotene), a treatment for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive, a rare bone disease. The product has been approved in Canada and is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Even with her impressive track record, Desjardins doesn’t plan to stop, and her plans for her company are revolutionary. With this Series A financing, she intends to use the Revenir platform to develop experimental small-molecule drugs. Revenir’s goal is to design new pharmacological stabilizers “at an unprecedented speed and scale” using bioinformatics.

Concurrently, Congruence is also taking on another big project.

According to the press release, the company is “building a proprietary database containing the biophysical properties of mutant proteins, which can be used to develop stabilizers for diseases caused by protein families outside of the [its] current focus.” 

The database will aid in research to better understand a variety of other genetic diseases. With a wealth of information, Congruence is setting itself up to create a myriad of possible therapies for diseases other than protein misfolding conditions. Both the database and the Revenir platform are powered by advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence. By harnessing the latest technology, Desjardins is keeping Congruence at the very edge of what’s currently possible in the biopharma industry, and this financing round is just one step toward her goal of changing how genetic disease treatments are made.

"Our industry faces a watershed moment where the application of novel computational tools, including machine learning, is poised to disrupt traditional drug discovery," she said.

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