Cambridge's Ensemble Therapeutics Quietly Shuts Down After 13 Years
Published: Nov 22, 2017 By Alex Keown
The Boston Business Journal first reported that the company, focused on developing small molecule therapies for cancer and other disease, has quietly closed up shop after 13 years. During that time, Ensemble Therapeutics struck a number of deals with large pharma companies, but was unable to secure enough financing to stay afloat, the Journal said. (The Journal’s article requires a paid subscription.) In 2016, XConomy reported that Ensemble had raised about $43.5 million in total equity financing since it launched in 2004. That seems a significantly small amount for a biotech over the course of more than a decade. It also seems that the company was unable to generate any significant return for its investors.
Ensemble Therapeutics’ website is still online and there is no information posted about shuttering its doors. Calls to the Massachusetts-based company results in a recorded message that says the telephone number is no longer a working number.
The company has not issued a press release since May of 2016. That press release centered on a deal with Swiss pharma giant Novartis, which acquired the rights to expand its access to Ensemble’s interleukin-17 (IL-17) antagonist program. That deal was an expansion of a collaborative agreement first established in 2013.
In March 2013, the company announced it achieved an early-stage research milestone in its drug discovery collaboration with Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. Connecticut-based Alexion was applying Ensemble’s drug discovery platform against several therapeutic targets to discover new small molecule clinical candidates. Whatever the milestone was that Ensemble achieved was never specified.
Ensemble Therapeutics was founded in 2004 by Harvard Professor David R. Liu. The company’s focus was on developing synthetic macrocycle drugs. Macrocycles, the company said on its site, are “uniquely suited to address many protein targets that cannot be modulated effectively by traditional small molecule pharmaceutical compounds.” Ensemble’s lead oncology program was focused on the immune checkpoint target Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO).
Ensemble was launched by noted venture capital group Flagship Ventures. It was also backed by Arch Venture Partners, Presidio Partners and Boston University.
During its 13-year run, the company had not been able to see any of the drug candidates in its in-house pipeline enter the clinic. On its website, Ensemble noted at least three of its own therapies were in preclinical phases and the rest were in the discovery phase.