Janpix Launches With $22 Million and Will be Helmed by Ex-Boehringer Ingelheim Exec
Published: Oct 12, 2017
October 11, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Scientist-turned venture capitalist Roman Fleck is at the helm of startup Janpix Inc., a company developing selective, small molecule inhibitors of STAT proteins as a cancer treatment.
Janpix, which will be based in Massachusetts, rolled out this morning with $22 million in funding backed by Medicxi, a GlaxoSmithKline - and Johnson & Johnson -backed venture fund. It is unclear how many employees the company will initially begin with. Fleck is an advisor at Medicxi. The company will use the financing to fund its STAT research and take it into the clinic.
Giovanni Mariggi, a principal at Medicxi and board member of Janpix, said the fund is excited to support the development of the STAT inhibitor program and the potential it has for patient treatment.
Janpix said the company has a “new understanding” of how STAT proteins can target both impact tumors as well as the tumor environment. The company uses technology developed by Patrick Gunning of the University of Toronto at Mississauga to develop the STAT inhibitors. In its announcement, Janpix said STAT proteins have, until now, remained a “hard-to-crack” molecular target. The company said intracellular protein-protein interactions are “notoriously difficult to inhibit with small proteins.” But with the technology and chemistry developed by Gunning, Janpix said it is advancing “highly potent and selective STAT3 and STAT5 inhibitors, as well as pan-STAT3/5 inhibitors.”
STAT proteins, in particular STAT3 and STAT5, play a key role in regulating cell cycle, apoptosis and proliferation, the company said. Janpix added that it is “widely recognized” that STAT activity is “implicated in a number of solid and hematological cancers.”
Over the past several years, companies have been investing heavily in the development of different types of immunotherapies, but Fleck said those treatments are not universal and a “significant number” of patients do not respond. Using the STAT inhibitor technology and targeting the tumor and its microenvironment, Fleck said the Janpix therapy “may be able to expand the universe of patients who can benefit from immunotherapies. “
“STAT-targeting drugs have the potential to create new drugs to battle aggressive blood disorders and cancers, and this support will help to accelerate that research and get those compounds to the patients who need them,” Gunning said in a statement.
In its announcement this morning, Janpix did not provide a timeline on when its STAT therapies might enter the clinic or what the initial therapeutic targets might be, although it had indicated it will work toward treatments for both blood cancers and solid tumors.