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Civetta Therapeutics Unveils a Propeller Protein Plan, $53M in Funding

Xconomy Boston — 

New biotech company Civetta Therapeutics has closed a $53 million Series A financing round to develop drugs that target “propeller proteins” as a way of treating cancers and other diseases.

Propeller proteins are found throughout nature, and the circularly arranged “blades” of these proteins commonly serve as active sites to which molecules can bind. Bruce Goldsmith, a venture partner at Deerfield Management and Civetta’s interim CEO, says propeller domains, the structural scaffolds of these proteins, have not been “fully exploited” for therapeutic drug discovery.

“Propeller domains have occasionally been targeted successfully for drug development (for example neuraminidase) and are the subject of research and development efforts on individual targets,” he explains, noting that on a target-by-target basis, propeller proteins can be targeted successfully.

However, as far as Civetta is aware, it is the first to build “a comprehensive proprietary platform to more broadly exploit this class of proteins as therapeutic targets,” says Goldsmith.

Cambridge, MA-based Civetta was founded by Deerfield Management earlier this year. The new company will initially pursue oncology, though it may expand into additional therapeutic areas, Goldsmith says. Other areas where propeller proteins are thought to play a role include neurodegeneration and metabolic diseases. The funds will be used to advance the company’s work to identify propeller proteins.

Civetta’s scientific founders include William Sellers, a Core Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School; and Eric Fischer, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and independent investigator at Dana-Farber.

Civetta currently has 10 full-time employees. With the new financing, the company will expand the team to more than 20, including scientists and leadership. The biotech currently has openings for chemistry, biochemistry, and biology positions—as well as a chief operating officer, Goldsmith says.

A long-term lease also has been finalized for building an integrated drug discovery facility, which will have office and lab space.

(Image: The GNB1 beta-propeller. Credit: DOI: 10.7717/peerj-cs.6/fig-1)