Tarveda Formally Spins Out Placon to Advance Platinum Cancer Drugs

Xconomy Boston — 

Blend Therapeutics rebranded at “Tarveda Therapeutics” a few months ago to reflect the strategic change the company underwent in 2015. A prospective cancer drug was spun into a new startup as part of that undertaking, and today, that company—Placon Therapeutics—has formally launched.

Placon, based in Cambridge, MA, is advancing what had been Tarveda’s lead drug, a molecule called BTP-114. It’s meant to be a more targeted, next-generation version of the platinum-based chemotherapy compounds that are often used in cancer treatment. Placon will develop this and other next-gen platinum-based cancer drugs, hoping to come up with compounds that are safer and more effective than their predecessors.

In its first announcement as an independent company this morning, Placon said that the FDA has accepted an application to begin clinical testing of BTP-114. Placon will test the drug on patients with solid tumors who haven’t responded to previous treatments, though the company is looking for help first. The startup aims to find investors or a strategic partner to push BTP-114 forward, it said in the statement.

Placon is built around the work of MIT’s Stephen Lippard into platinum-based cancer drugs. Lippard was one of the founders (along with Bob Langer and Omid Farokhzad) of Blend, which had a two-pronged plan when it was originally formed in 2012. One was to advance Lippard’s work and use nanoparticle technology to develop targeted platinum cancer drugs. The other was to “blend” disparate therapies together.

Along the way, however, Blend instead changed its focus on what it calls “Pentarins,” tinier versions of a relatively new type of cancer drug called antibody-drug conjugates. It hired Drew Fromkin as its CEO last April, and later changed its name to Tarveda in January to reflect the shift. As part of that plan, BTP-114 was funneled into Placon. Fromkin wouldn’t say much about Placon at the time, just that it was “distinctly separate in every way from Tarveda,” that none of Tarveda’s current staffers work there, and that Placon owns BTP-114 and a number of similar “backup assets.”

A Placon spokesperson confirmed that a formal management team hasn’t been appointed as of yet to run the company. The only person quoted in the release is James Barrett, a director at New Enterprise Associates.

“Platinum based drugs are a cornerstone of many therapeutic regimens for patients with solid tumors, and we believe that BTP-114 reflects the latest innovations in cancer R&D to offer improvements beyond today’s cytotoxic medicines that may provide enhanced benefits for cancer patients,” Barrett said in a statement.

The company’s major institutional investors are NEA, Flagship Ventures, NanoDimension, and Eminent Venture Capital—the same group that backed Blend/Tarveda, according to a spokesperson.