GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and several other investors have joined forces to back a new biotech company called Morphic Therapeutic. The investors recently raised $51.5 million for the startup biotech through a Series A funding.
Besides GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, other investors who participated in the Series A financing were AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV), SR One and Omega Funds. The founding investors in Morphic include Polaris Partners.
Bringing back integrin targeting
Morphic is working to perfect a therapeutic approach built around integrin-targeting and GlaxoSmithKline looks excited by its prospects. The integrin-targeting approach gave way to a number of blockbuster drugs such as Entyvio for treating inflammatory bowel disease and Tysabri for treating multiple sclerosis.
Integrin is a family of proteins that are found on the surface of most cells in humans. They are involved in a range of cellular activities such as cell migration, cell survival, cell differentiation and cell progression. Because of their availability all over the body, integrin can be targeted by drugs that either inhibit or spur them to achieve favorable treatment outcome.
It was the Harvard immunologist Dr. Tim Springer who pioneered integrin-targeting back in the 1980s. His work paved the way for a wave of successful drugs such as Tysabri from Biogen Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) and Entyvio from Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd.
However, as much as there were successful integrin-targeting drugs, there were also many failures because some drugs had side effects. That resulted in drug developers abandoning the integrin-targeting approach, but that didn’t mean that the strategy didn’t work at all.
Springer eventually figured out what was causing the problem. He discovered that the problem with integrin-targeting drugs arose from the difference in structure and composition of integrin. As such, Morphic is basing its work on the perfected integrin-targeting approach and it is hoping to create an oral version of drugs that were previously only available through injection.
From the look of things, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and the other backers of Morphic are betting that the startup biotech has a compelling chance of success in its efforts to leverage a next-generation integrin-targeting strategy.
Putting the money to use
The funding from GlaxoSmithKline and the rest of the investors will help the startup to finance its drug development programs. But the company has not updated on when it hopes to begin clinical testing of its molecules.