Cancer has a new enemy: Intrepida Bio, a new company dedicated to the discovery and development of medicines to fight cancer with biotech. The company is the first to design proprietary monoclonal antibodies that block the novel targets BAG3 and its receptor IFITM-2 to thwart their ability to create a favorable environment for tumor growth.
IntrepidaBio was born from the acquisition of the technologies developed by Biouniversa, spinoff of the University of Salerno (Italy) by Dauntless, a Californian biotech company based in San Diego, with the aim of developing a treatment that modulates the immune system to combat cancer and other diseases. This operation is worth $16.5 million.
An initial $9.5 million equity investment from Sofinnova Investments and Canaan will fund investigational new drug (IND) application-enabling studies of Intrepida’s lead oncology program.
Intrepida Co-founders Joel F. Martin, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, and Olivier Laurent, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, together with Biouniversa s.r.l., established Intrepida with worldwide rights to develop the technology based on the unique targets BAG3 and its receptor IFITM-2.
Tumors use BAG3 – IFITM-2 signaling to create an environment that promotes tumor growth and stymies the immune system from attacking the tumor. BAG3 expression is particularly strong in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), where it was detected in every single patient tested1, and high levels of BAG3 were associated with poor prognosis1. Intrepida’s anti-BAG3 antibodies block this pathway, eliminating a tumor’s pro-growth environment while encouraging the immune system to attack the tumor2. By blocking BAG3, these antibodies broadly affect an array of mechanisms that support and protect the tumor.
The prospect of BAG3 as an anti-cancer target was discovered and preclinically validated by the team at Biouniversa, led by Dr. Maria Caterina Turco, professor at the University of Salerno and chairwoman of the Intrepida Scientific Advisory Board. “In vivo and in vitro studies demonstrate that Intrepida’s anti-BAG3 antibodies slow tumor growth, decrease metastases and improve survival,” said Joel Martin, Ph.D., co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Intrepida Bio. “We’ve seized this exceptional opportunity to fully develop these compounds with a goal to begin clinical trials with our lead candidate IB001 in 2021.”
“Joel and Olivier searched for and found truly novel, validated targets that alter the body’s first line of defense – the innate immune system – to fight disease. I am confident the Intrepida team will conduct a rigorous program to build the clinical evidence around BAG3,” said Mike Powell, Ph.D., general partner at Sofinnova Investments and chairman of the Intrepida Board of Directors.
In addition to Dr. Powell, existing Intrepida directors include David Kabakoff, Ph.D., executive partner of Sofinnova; Nina Kjellson, general partner at Canaan; Ellen Lubman, chief business officer at Impel NeuroPharma; and Dr. Martin. New directors include Elizabeth Robinson, Ph.D., co-founder and vice chairman of Indaco Venture Partners SGR and Giovanni Rizzo, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Biouniversa. Biouniversa’s original investors, Indaco Venture Partners and Vertis SGR, have joined Intrepida’s investor syndicate. The Indaco and Vertis investments were led by Dr. Robinson and Mauro Odorico, respectively.
For more information, visit www.intrepidabio.com.
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