For the past five years, Jigar Patel and a group of fellow Roche employees have been quietly developing drug discovery technology at the global pharma company’s outpost in Madison, WI. Now, they’re setting out on their own to see if their approach to identifying promising peptide-based therapies can have an impact on the sector.
Patel says he and 12 colleagues recently formed a Madison-based spinout of Roche called Nimble Therapeutics, which licensed the drug discovery technology from the Swiss pharma giant.
Today, Nimble officially announced itself to the world and said it completed a Series A venture investment led by San Francisco-based Telegraph Hill Partners. Roche has also invested in Nimble, Patel tells Xconomy. The company’s announcement didn’t disclose the size of the Series A deal, but according to a document filed with the SEC earlier this month, Nimble closed $10 million in equity funding.
Nimble plans to initially operate as a drug discovery company, Patel says. It would identify and enhance molecules that show promise as therapies, and its pharma customers would then try to advance those drug candidates through clinical testing and into the marketplace.
Nimble is focusing on drugs formed from peptides, which are chains of amino acids. Such drugs have appealed to pharmaceutical developers because they are thought to combine desirable properties of both small and large molecule drugs, wielding both the targeting power of large molecule therapies and small molecules’ ability to penetrate target cells.
Despite the purported advantages of peptide therapies, pharma companies have struggled to develop and commercialize such drugs. An industry analysis in spring 2017 found around 60 peptide drugs had been approved up to that point in the US, Europe, and Japan. (By comparison, the FDA approved 59 new drugs in 2018 alone, a record year; the federal agency has averaged 43 drug approvals annually over the past five years, according to a Nature report.) Biotech companies working in peptide drug development include Aileron Therapeutics (NASDAQ: ALRN), which has drug candidates in early- and mid-stage testing, and Bicycle Therapeutics, whose lead candidate is in a Phase 1/2a study, according to Bicycle’s website. Read the full story here.