Biotech startup creator Cydan is unveiling a new company, Tiburio Therapeutics, which is backed by $31 million to support its work on treatments for rare endocrine diseases.
Cambridge, MA-based Cydan was started by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) six years ago to scour the world for compounds that can be turned into rare disease treatments, and to form companies around the most promising drug candidates.
Tiburio’s lead drug, TBR-760, was licensed from Ipsen, which had developed the drug for a type of tumor that affects the pituitary gland, the pea-sized organ at the base of the brain that controls the function of other glands in the body. Unlike pituitary tumors that lead to the overproduction of hormones, the tumors that grow in non-functioning pituitary adenoma (NFPA) don’t secrete hormones that lead to a medical problem. Though such “non-functioning tumors” are most often found in men between the ages of 50 and 60, they can occur in both men and women of all ages, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Because non-functioning tumors don’t produce hormones, Sloan Kettering says they usually aren’t detected until they grow big enough to cause symptoms. As these tumors grow, they press on the optic nerves, which can lead to headaches and vision problems, Sloan Kettering says. Treatment for these tumors is a risky surgery performed through the nose and sinuses, or radiation therapy. Tiburio says an estimated 5,000 new cases of NFPA in the U.S. require surgery each year. In 40 to 50 percent of these cases, tumors regrow within five years, the company says.
Tiburio aims to offer an alternative treatment with TBR-760, a small peptide administered by subcutaneous injection. It says that by blocking the proliferation of NFPA cells, the drug could shrink or halt tumor growth. The company says it will use the new cash to advance the drug into Phase 2 studies, which are expected to begin enrolling patients in the second half of this year. The capital will also be used to study a second compound licensed from Ipsen, TBR-065, for other unspecified rare endocrine diseases. The Series A round of financing came from NEA, Longitude Capital, Lundbeckfond Ventures, and Alexandria Venture Investments.
Tiburio says it has an exclusive worldwide license from Ipsen for both compounds. Under the licensing agreement, the French pharmaceutical company received a minority stake in Tiburio and could earn milestone payments pegged to the progress of the drugs, plus royalties if they reach the market. Tiburio is responsible for development and commercialization expenses for both compounds.
In conjunction with the financing, Tiburio announced that Abraham Ceesay has joined the company as CEO. Ceesay comes to Tiburio from scPharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SCPH), where he was chief operating officer.
Cydan so far hasn’t scored a commercialized drug through any of its portfolio companies. Its goal for each of its startups is to reach a deal with a large pharmaceutical company to continue development of a drug or to have a company acquire the startup outright. That’s what happened to Vtesse, Cydan’s first company. The startup developed an experimental treatment for Niemann-Pick type C1, a rare genetic disease that leads to an abnormal buildup of cholesterol in the brain, liver, and spleen. Though Vtesse was acquired in 2017 in a deal valued at $200 million, its drug ultimately did not pan out. In November, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: MNK) announced that the compound failed to perform better than a placebo in a clinical trial.
Cydan’s second startup, Imara, launched in 2016 with an experimental treatment for sickle cell disease. That drug is currently in mid-stage clinical testing.