Start-Up Previews (02/2009)
A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile group, "Building the Next-Generation of GPCR-Targeting Drugs," features profiles of Catena Pharmaceuticals, Dimerix Bioscience, Heptares Therapeutics and Trevena. Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: Carmat, Glycan Biosciences, Itero and MaRVis Technologies.
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Catena Pharmaceuticals is seeking anti-angiogenic GPCR-antagonist compounds, and has a license to one that targets a subset of GPCRs specific for lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). LPA is one of a family of fatty molecules called lysophospholipids that is generating increasing interest among scientists for their role in cell proliferation and inflammation. The company says its small molecules have shown early promise in a number of indications, from oncology to fibrosis and neuropathic pain. Catena will concentrate initially on developing antagonists to LPA receptors for the treatment of solid tumors.
The biosimilars business isn't necessarily a logical niche for a small start-up company. The industry's many attendant challenges-clinical, manufacturing, and regulatory-are more the domain of the established generics companies, big biotechs, and more recently Big Pharmas, which have the capital and infrastructure to handle them. Try telling that to Itero Biopharmaceuticals, which plans to develop follow-on therapeutic proteins and antibodies en route to creating its own biologics pipeline. In order to compete in this multibillion-dollar market, Itero intends to forge and leverage strategic partnerships in far-flung corners of the world.
While recent advances have revealed the chemical structures of glycosaminoglycans and their enormous biological importance, cost-effective and scalable synthesis has been a consistent barrier to commercialization. Glycan Biosciences thinks it's solved the problem with its chemistry platform, Glycolink, which uses inexpensive pharmaceutical-grade feedstocks, simplified chemistry, and employs only a few steps. The technology has yielded numerous promising NCEs, including some for respiratory disease, Glycan's primary therapeutic target.