The founders of Swiss biotech Therachon have launched a new company called VectivBio, also based in Basel, with €31M funding to develop drugs for rare diseases.
The spin-out comes after Therachon was acquired by Pfizer last year in a deal worth up to €700M. Therachon’s CEO, CBO, CFO and CMO will all move to the new company, which is independent of Pfizer, although the big pharma does own some equity in the new venture. Other funding comes from life science investors Versant Ventures, Novo Holdings and Orbimed, as well as several others.
Therachon’s lead candidate is a drug to boost bone growth in people born with the genetic condition achondroplasia. The company’s second candidate was a drug to help nutrient absorption in patients with serious bowel diseases, but it will now become the lead candidate for VectivBio.
VectivBio’s drug — apraglutide — mimics the action of glucagon-like peptide 2, a protein that is believed to enhance the function of the intestine and improve nutrient intake in the gut.
Apraglutide is currently being tested at phase II in patients who have had bowel shortening surgery for medical reasons, such as severe inflammatory bowel disease, and therefore cannot absorb enough nutrients through their food. Other than giving patients regular liquid nutrients through an intravenous drip, a process that can take many hours, there are currently no real treatments for this condition. VectivBio expects results from the trial at the end of the first quarter of 2020.
While VectivBio is currently focusing on getting apraglutide into the clinic, it also hopes to develop other targeted therapies for rare or orphan diseases in the future. “Rare diseases remain an area of significant unmet medical need, where our team’s proven track record and entrepreneurial mindset will enable us to have a positive impact,” commented Luca Santarelli, CEO of VectivBio and former CEO of Therachon.
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