Diagonal Therapeutics Nets $128M for New Approach to Agonist Antibodies

Pictured: Antibody on blue background/iStock, pete

Pictured: Antibody on blue background/iStock, pete

The Cambridge-based biotech was co-founded by Atlas Ventures and CEO Alex Lugovsky to develop agonist antibodies for rare diseases, with a lead program in hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.

Pictured: Illustration of an antibody on blue background/iStock, peterschreiber.media

Atlas Ventures unveiled a new Cambridge-based biotech Wednesday with $128 million in funding. The venture capital firm co-founded Diagonal Therapeutics to develop a new approach to agonist antibodies for the treatment of rare diseases.

Atlas, along with CEO Alex Lugovskoy, seeded and co-founded the biotech in 2022, with additional startup funds from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Velosity Capital. Lugovskoy was previously chief operating officer at Dragonfly Therapeutics and worked in Biogen’s drug discovery division, in addition to additional leadership roles at other companies. Diagonal’s Series A was fronted by BVF Partners and Atlas, with participation from half a dozen other VC funds.

While most currently approved antibodies inhibit cellular function, agonist antibodies activate a broken signaling cascade in the cells to tackle the underlying causes of disease, according to Diagonal.

“We are fundamentally changing how agonist antibody therapies are developed,” Lugovskoy said in a statement.

Diagonal’s platform marries computational and experimental techniques to home in on the right combination of binding sites between receptor and antibody, a factor the company notes has been historically challenging.

Diagonal’s lead program aims to treat hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), a severe bleeding disorder with limited treatment options. The agonist antibody in development is designed to activate the receptor genetically impaired in HHT patients. Left untreated, it can lead to lung and brain hemorrhage, stroke, heart failure and death. Preclinical models suggest the candidate can prevent and reverse the enlargements and tangles of veins and arteries that can occur, according to Diagonal’s announcement.

Two more programs in discovery and preclinical development target pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and solid tumors, respectively. The PAH community scored a victory last week when the FDA approved Merck’s Winrevair, the first activin signaling inhibitor therapy for the condition. Merck acquired the drug in its $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron Pharma in 2021. The market for PAH therapies was valued at $7.66 billion in 2023.

For Diagonal, the Series A funds will advance the HHT program through clinical proof-of-concept and assist with the development of multiple others, including the PAH program, a company representative told BioSpace in an email.

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at kate.goodwin@biospace.com and on LinkedIn.

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at kate.goodwin@biospace.com and on LinkedIn.