Morphic Therapeutic announced that it has raised $51.5 million through Series A financing to advance products and bring them into clinical testing. The Massachusetts-based company specializes in oral integrins.
SR One and Pfizer Venture Investments led the round, with participation from other investors that included Omega Funds and AbbVie Ventures.
The company was founded in 2015 on work from the lab of Tim Springer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, who initially discovered integrins in the 1980s — spawning the first generation of integrins.
Currently there are six injectable integrin treatments approved for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and also for plaque psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, acute coronary syndrome, and for complications of percutaneous coronary procedures.
Morphic is leveraging fresh findings from Springer’s lab it thinks might lead to the development of small molecule integrin inhibitors, an effort others have found challenging.
“This is a tremendously exciting time in drug development, when scientific understanding has advanced significantly, creating a clear path forward for effective targeting of the integrin family using rationally designed small molecules,” Praveen Tipirneni, president and chief executive officer of Morphic Therapeutic, said in a press release.
Integrins are transmembrane receptors that work as bridges for cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions. When triggered, integrins activate chemical pathways to the interior (signal transduction), such as the chemical composition and mechanical status of the ECM, resulting in regulation of the cell cycle, cell differentiation, and cell mobility.
Abnormal integrin signaling contributes to many diseases, including autoimmune diseases and fibrosis. These two areas are the company’s focus, as is immuno-oncology.
Recent findings from the Springer lab have clarified the reasons past efforts have failed to develop oral drugs directed at integrin targets, by revealing how composites created to turn off the activity of integrins involuntarily worked to promote it. Morphic’s platform builds on these findings, including proprietary reagents for assays and ultra-high resolution integrin crystals, the company said in the release. A founding alliance with Schrödinger is expected to aid in the design of drug candidates.
“Integrins are a high unmet need area for new therapies. More than any other, the Springer lab has been and continues to be at the forefront of discovering and deciphering integrin structural and functional biology to advance R&D against these targets,” said Vikas Goyal of SR One. Morphic is “uniquely position[ed] … to lead the next wave of innovation in integrin therapeutics.”