Anchor Therapeutics Nabs $10M for New Class of Peptide Drugs Against Hard Targets

Xconomy Boston — 

One of the many companies in Boston taking a shot at developing a new class of therapies has gotten a second vote of confidence from investors. Cambridge, MA-based Anchor Therapeutics has secured a $10 million Series B round of financing from its current investors, TVM Capital, HealthCare Ventures, and the Novartis Option Fund.

Anchor, formerly known as Ascent Therapeutics, said back in November 2008 that it raised $19 million in its first round of venture financing. CEO Rick Jones told Xconomy last September that his company had about a year’s worth of cash left in the bank, so he has apparently accomplished enough to replenish the company coffers for a while longer.

What’s interesting about Anchor is that it’s pursuing a new class of peptide drugs that it has branded “pepducins.” These are basically short fragments of proteins that are linked to a lipid molecule in such a way that they will bind in a tight “anchor” with some of the most important drug targets on the surface of cells—G-protein coupled receptors. These GPCRs are already the target of many lucrative small-molecule drugs, but they are extremely hard targets because of their 3-D spaghetti-like shape, and their propensity to weave in and out of the cell membrane. If Anchor can prove it can truly “anchor” these pepducin drugs against a valuable GPCR target, and that its technology can be applied to many such targets, it could be in position to tap into a market for GPCR-based drugs that’s already worth an estimated $40 billion a year.

All of Anchor’s work so far has occurred at the lab bench, and in preclinical studies, so it’s impossible to say whether this will work in human beings. Anchor, in a short statement being released today, didn’t identify a lead drug candidate or provide a timeline for when it might enter its first clinical trial. The company did note that it is still looking for more investors to fill out the B round financing.

Last September, Jones said Anchor’s lead compound was a potential rival to Genzyme’s plerixafor (Mozobil) for certain blood cancers. The company has also identified pepducin drugs with potential for inflammatory and metabolic diseases, which it plans to take through preclinical studies over the next 12 to 18 months, Jones said in an e-mail. At that point, Anchor will decide which programs to take into clinical trials through a mix of resources from the company and its partners, Jones said.

“Our team at Anchor has made tremendous progress advancing pepducin technology and establishing pre-clinical proof-of-concept in multiple targets and disease areas,” Anchor’s Jones said in a statement. “We continue to be excited about the prospects for this technology to lead to a new class of drugs that target GPCRs. Our investors’ renewed financial commitment is a strong statement of support for this groundbreaking opportunity.”