University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) Spinoff Circle Scores Seed Funding From QB3’s VC Fund, Pfizer
Published: Sep 22, 2014
September 22, 2014
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
San Francisco-based startup Circle Pharma, Inc. today announced that Pfizer and QB3’s venture fund, Mission Bay Capital, LLC, will provide an undisclosed amount of seeding funding for the cell therapy biotech.
As a result, the company has initiated two collaborations with Pfizer into cell permeable macrocyclic peptide therapeutics. Circle is a spinoff company from an original project collaboration between the University of California San Francisco and University of California Santa Cruz, founded by UCSF professor Matt Jacobson and UC Santa Cruz professor Scott Lokey.
“We are very pleased to have launched Circle with the backing of Pfizer and Mission Bay Capital, and to have initiated two exciting collaborative projects with Pfizer,” said David J. Earp, Circle’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “In addition to these collaborations, Circle will be undertaking development work against our own therapeutic targets. We are open to additional collaborations with partners who share our excitement in the potential of permeable macrocyclic peptides, which, we believe, could be applicable to a large number of important therapeutic targets.”
Circle Pharma is an early-stage biotech company that applies proprietary computational algorithms and chemistry to develop cell permeable macrocycle peptide therapeutics. Macrocyclic peptides are able to squeeze into cells rather than attach via binding sites, and has potential for being effective on illnesses that to date have not responded to other drugs.
The California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) was founded in 2000 by the University of California to help drive California’s economy in the area of quantitative biosciences. QB3 has previously worked with Lokey and Jacobson through a different programmed, Startup in a Box, which helped develop Circle Pharma into an actual company.
At the same time QB3 was founded, three other tech incubators were created: California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). The four companies represent a billion-dollar, multidisciplinary attempt to join public and private resources on separate technical research areas.
The incubators assist in patenting the researchers’ discoveries and launching the spinoff companies. One of their collaborations includes a $3.5 million per year alliance with Pfizer.
“The power of the technology was apparent in theory,” said Earp in a San Francisco Business Times article, “but it’s something different to take an academic project into a company environment with timetables and limited resources—sometimes more limited than the academic environment.”
“In addition to these collaborations, Circle will be undertaking development work against our other therapeutic targets,” said Earp. “We are open to additional collaborations with partners who share our excitement in the potential of permeable macrocyclic peptides, which, we believe, could be applicable to a large number of important therapeutic targets.”