Startups

Updated: A GPCR startup out of France and Canada scores its Series A after 14 years of wheeling and dealing – Endpoints News


Hav­ing al­ready nailed down mul­ti­ple li­cens­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion deals with Big Phar­ma gi­ants like Bris­tol My­ers Squibb and Pfiz­er, a France- and Que­bec-based GPCR biotech now has its first VC fi­nanc­ing round un­der its belt.

The I/O fo­cused biotech Do­main Ther­a­peu­tics closed a Se­ries A worth $42 mil­lion, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Tues­day — which will last two years, ac­cord­ing to CEO Pas­cal Neuville. Do­main had pre­vi­ous­ly built nu­mer­ous part­ner­ships with dif­fer­ent phar­ma com­pa­nies since its found­ing in 2008, such as Mer­ck KGaA, Take­da and Boehringer In­gel­heim.

“We are pleased to wel­come our new share­hold­ers and I thank them all for their com­mit­ment at this de­ci­sive stage of our com­pa­ny’s growth,” Neuville said in a state­ment. “Af­ter hav­ing de­liv­ered a first GPCR drug can­di­date for im­muno-on­col­o­gy to­geth­er with Mer­ck KGaA, Do­main is now com­mit­ted to ad­vance its own treat­ments re­viv­ing the im­mune sys­tem to de­feat can­cer.”

As for what’s next, Do­main said in a state­ment that it will move pipeline de­vel­op­ment for­ward for a va­ri­ety of drug can­di­dates, in­clud­ing clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment for an EP4R an­tag­o­nist, push two GPCR pro­grams in­to the IND stage (which does in­clude an an­ti-CCR8 an­ti­body), and ad­vance the biotech’s dis­cov­ery ef­forts for GPCR-tar­get­ing drugs.

Neuville elab­o­rat­ed that Do­main be­gan a shift in 2018, af­ter Dan­ish biotech Prex­ton Ther­a­peu­tics got bought out by Lund­beck for more than $100 mil­lion up­front in a $1.1 bil­lion deal. Prex­ton’s sole can­di­date at the time, foliglu­rax, orig­i­nat­ed from a se­ries of com­pounds that were ini­tial­ly dis­cov­ered by Do­main, and had been out-li­censed to Prex­ton in 2013. As an IP hold­er, Do­main could on­ly re­ceive a cer­tain out — and Neuville said that Do­main on­ly cap­tured 11% of the deal.

And with that new de­vel­op­ment, Neuville said that the biotech has de­cid­ed to keep as­sets with­in the com­pa­ny and cre­ate “more val­ue” for the com­pa­ny. As to what that looks like? Keep­ing a lim­it­ed num­ber of part­ner­ships, and rather em­pha­siz­ing in-house as­sets and push­ing those can­di­dates to­wards the clin­ic.

Neuville told End­points News that with the Se­ries A, the 100-per­son biotech is no longer fo­cused on mul­ti­ple in­di­ca­tions as they used to — no more CNS or rare dis­ease. In his words, the Se­ries A round marks Do­main 2.0, fo­cus­ing specif­i­cal­ly on GPCR-tar­get­ing drugs for im­muno-on­col­o­gy.

GPCRs have been the low-hang­ing fruit and the tar­get of many ap­proved drugs, but a more re­cent suite of biotechs has aimed to build on that foun­da­tion with new tech­no­log­i­cal ap­proach­es. Re­cent­ly, So­sei Hep­tares had signed two dis­cov­ery deals, one be­ing an an­ti­body dis­cov­ery deal with Twist Bio­science last year, and the oth­er com­ing in a deal in Jan­u­ary with Al­pha­bet’s Ver­i­ly af­ter Ab­b­Vie pulled out of a deal with the Japan­ese biotech.

Bel­gian biotech Con­fo al­so signed a deal with Re­gen­eron last year to lever­age its plat­form, which us­es se­lec­tive VHH an­ti­bod­ies to sta­bi­lize GPCRs, to­wards dis­cov­er­ing an­ti­body drug can­di­dates for GPCR tar­gets.

Quite a few in­vestors de­cid­ed to tag along Tues­day: co-lead in­vestors Panacea Ven­ture, 3B Fu­ture Health Fund and CTI Life Sci­ences, along with ad­Mare BioIn­no­va­tions, Schroders Cap­i­tal, Omnes, Turenne Cap­i­tal, Theodor­us, and Vi­va BioIn­no­va­tor. Ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sev­en­ture Part­ners, which had pre­vi­ous­ly in­vest­ed $3.9 mil­lion in­to the com­pa­ny back in 2019, al­so tagged along. The last mon­ey Do­main raised was a $6.7 mil­lion debt fi­nanc­ing from a con­sor­tium of French banks in Jan­u­ary 2020.

Ed­i­tor’s note: This sto­ry has been up­dat­ed af­ter a video in­ter­view with Pas­cal Neuville, CEO of Do­main Ther­a­peu­tics.



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