What You Need to Know About Calporta

What You Need to Know About Calporta
December 1, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Calporta is focused on developing selective small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for the treatment of Niemann-Pick C Disease (NPC) and other lysosomal storage diseases.

Damaged TRPML1 function has been implicated in several pathological conditions, including NPC. Some potential disease applications include muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease.

TRPML1 is an ion channel in the lysosome and a key regulator of lysosomal trafficking processes. Mutations that cause NPC lead to impaired intracellular lipid trafficking and to lysosomal accumulation of cholesterol and biolipids.

Calporta’s research is based on work from the laboratory of Haoxing Xu at the University of Michigan.

Launched as a collaboration between Avalon Ventures and GlaxoSmithKline , Calporta is located at COI Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, a community of innovation founded by Avalon to provide operational support, a fully equipped research-and-development facility and an experienced leadership team.

“We have a very small number of people and great genetic data,” Jay Lichter, Calporta’s chief executive officer told BioSpace in an exclusive interview. “We’re just getting started, the company’s got only four or fie months behind it, but we’ve got some initial hits.”

Company Leadership
Jay Lichter—president and chief executive officer of COI Pharmaceuticals, and as such, is the chief executive officer of the biotech companies under its umbrella. He is also the managing director of Avalon Ventures, and has led investments in Carolus Therapeutics, Otonomy , Sova and Zacharon Pharmaceuticals. He is the inventor on over 260 patent and patent applications for six Avalon portfolio companies, including 78 issued patents. Lichter has been involved in licensing or merger and acquisition deals valued in excess of $1 billion.

Sergio Duron—chief scientific officer. Currently, Duron is vice president of chemistry and drug discovery for COI Pharmaceuticals and Sova Pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining COI and Calporta, Duron was director of chemistry at Zacharon Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by BioMarin . Prior to joining the Avalon Ventures portfolio companies, he was at Kalypsys.

Carmine Stengone—chief business officer, and senior vice president of business development for COI Pharmaceuticals. He has more than 14 years of experience in biopharma, including roles in finance, strategic planning, corporate development, licensing, alliance management and venture funding.

Jason Roland—principal scientist at Calporta and principal investigator with COI Pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining COI, he was principal investigator at the California Institute for Biomedical Research. Before that, he was a research investigator with GNF.

Haoxing Xu—is the scientific founder. He is an associate professor in the Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology Department at the University of Michigan. His work focuses on the physiological and pathological functions of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels, lysosome ion channels, and Ca2+ signaling.

Company Financing
Calporta was launched as one of several collaborations between Avalon Ventures and GlaxoSmithKline . It received $10 million in a Series A financing round and research and development support from Avalon and GSK.

It’s very early stages for Calporta, but Lichter noted that although there are people thinking about NPC disease, they don’t seem to be going after TRPML1. “I think that’s the novelty piece,” he told BioSpace , “and we think we have the ability to make the agonist, plus we have a lot of internal experience in this area from other programs. It’s a really good fit for us, as well as the internal piece.”

What to Look For
With any luck, in the next couple years Calporta will chose a lead molecule and additional backups. “We’re slugging away to get lead molecules that will turn into clinical candidates,” Lichter said, “and hopefully GlaxoSmithKline will acquire the company and put them into the clinic.”

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