Company's collaborative partnership with IRICoR, Université de Montréal and MaRS Innovation, funded by Merck Canada, to advance macrocycle drug
TORONTO and MONTREAL, Nov. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ - Encycle Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology start-up founded by Dr. Andrei Yudin of the University of Toronto in partnership with MaRS Innovation, is developing its lead orally-bioavailable macrocycle drug to target integrin a4b7, which is involved in the inflammatory process in a number of diseases, most notably for inflammatory bowel disease.
To support and advance this molecule, Encycle Therapeutics is collaboratively partnering with the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer — Commercialization of Research (IRICoR), the Université de Montréal (UdeM) and MaRS Innovation. The partnership builds on the Merck Canada Inc. $4 million public-private funding partnership, announced at BIO in April 2013, to develop collaborative research projects with three Canadian academic commercialization centres, including MaRS Innovation and IRICoR.
"We are pleased to help support this important research collaboration that is made possible through the Quebec-Ontario corridor project in an emerging technology area. IRICoR, MaRS Innovation and Encycle have clearly leveraged their respective strengths to accelerate the discovery of novel therapeutics. As a research-focused company committed to early stage private-public partnering, we believe that such interactions will continue to fuel innovation in the life science sector in Canada," said Mr. Chirfi Guindo, President and Managing Director, Merck Canada Inc.
The agreement brings a significant investment to fund Encycle Therapeutics' development work, giving IRICoR an equity position and expanding MaRS Innovation's equity stake. Cumulatively, Encycle Therapeutics has secured more than $2.5 million to advance its drug development platform.
"Through this year-long collaboration, Encycle Therapeutics will increase the number of full-time scientists devoted to this project from four to seven," said Jeffrey Coull, CEO. "We're impressed by the cross-disciplinary calibre of scientists working in IRICoR's ecosystem, many of whom have extensive industry experience within Quebec's pharmaceutical sector. We look forward to the synergies their talent will produce in concert with our existing team."
The partnership will fund and deploy a number of experienced medicinal chemists at UdeM's Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) to optimize Encycle Therapeutics' lead molecule. Additional studies will be conducted at the biopharmacy platform of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UdeM, while Encycle Therapeutics conducts other project-related activities, including pre-clinical efficacy studies.
"Encycle Therapeutics has spent the last 18 months demonstrating the significant potential of its innovative macrocyle chemistry platform to generate small-cell permeable systems," said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. "This achievement has resulted in multiple partnership opportunities, affirming its position as one of Canada's emerging biotechnology companies to watch. We are excited to see their first product offering advancing through this unique and creative partnership that will further the existing relationship between Ontario and Québec and position the company for follow-on financing."
"We are very pleased to be working with both Encycle and MaRS Innovation on this project, which would not have been possible without the support of Merck Canada," said Michel Bouvier, CEO of IRICoR and IRIC. "Our highly experienced medicinal chemistry team, which has previously delivered clinical candidates, is looking forward to making a major contribution to this project."
About Encycle Therapeutics Inc.
Encycle Therapeutics is a Toronto-based biotech company exploiting a unique platform technology that enables the rapid synthesis of drug-like macrocycles or membrane-permeable nacellins. Nacellins have enormous potential to target intracellular protein-protein interactions, which are largely intractable to small molecule and biologic modulation, and can represent cheaper, oral equivalents to existing biologics (e.g., monoclonal antibodies). Encycle has collaborated with several pharmaceutical companies to complete a screening library of nacellins, many of which are cell-permeable and possess other drug-like properties. The company is also pursuing independent development of nacellins against integrin alpha-4-beta-7 (IBD) and SMURF2 (fibrosis); its lead program seeks to develop orally bioavailable inhibitors of integrin alpha-4-beta-7, which are safer and less immunogenic than marketed and investigational biologics targeting the same protein. For more information: www.encycletherapeutics.com
SOURCE Encycle Therapeutics Inc.