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By Paul Bonanos,
Associate Editor

Priothera raises €30 million to develop onetime Novartis candidate in AML transplantation setting

START-UP OBTAINS S1PR MODULATOR FROM KYORIN

A VC syndicate is backing Priothera with a €30 million ($35.5 million) series A round to develop a clinical S1PR modulator for acute myelogenous leukemia patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

The group believes mocravimod, which Priothera Ltd. has acquired from Kyorin Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (Tokyo:4569), can be a best-in-class therapy for AML.

Under a partnership with Kyorin, Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) had previously developed mocravimod in immunological indications. After the Swiss pharma deprioritized mocravimod for strategic reasons, the syndicate set up Priothera as a single-asset company with staff from Novartis who had already worked on the program, Fountain Healthcare Partners’ Manus Rogan told BioCentury.

Priothera’s founding CEO is Florent Gros, a former managing director at Novartis Venture Fund. The start-up’s board includes Dhaval Patel, a longtime Novartis executive whose team developed S1PR1 modulators Gilenya fingolimod and Mayzent siponimod for multiple sclerosis. Patel, who was head of research at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, is now EVP and CSO of UCB S.A. (Euronext:UCB).

S1PR modulation can slow the migration of T cells from lymphatic tissues to the periphery, the company said. A therapeutic that affects the target’s signaling could reduce tissue damage, mortality and morbidity from HSCT transplantation in AML patients.

“Data generated in a Phase IIa study of mocravimod had shown reduced mortality and reduced relapse alongside allogeneic HSCT, not just in AML but also other hematological malignancies,” Rogan said.

Fountain led the round alongside co-leader HealthCap. Also participating were Tekla Capital Management and EarlyBird Capital. Kyorin is a shareholder, and retains mocravimod’s rights in Japan and Korea, according to Rogan.

Priothera expects to conduct a randomized, pivotal trial of mocravimod that will read out in 2023. Conditional approval could follow the next year, Rogan said.

He added that payers have signaled that any agent that can improve the success rate of HSCT, which costs about $300,000, would be valuable to patients.

The company isn’t likely to commercialize the candidate on its own, however. “Our hope is that the data from the Phase IIb/III registrational study would be compelling enough to attract either a strategic partner or acquirer,” Rogan said.

Fountain was an early investor in two other pharma spin-outs that were later acquired.

The firm had backed Civitas Therapeutics Inc., which housed a Parkinson’s disease program from Alkermes plc (NASDAQ:ALKS); Acorda Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:ACOR) acquired Civitas in 2014. More recently, Fountain invested in women’s health company KaNDy Therapeutics Ltd., which was developing a program from GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK); Bayer AG (Xetra:BAYN) bought KaNDy in August.

Fountain and Novartis Venture Fund were also the co-founding investors in Inflazome Ltd., which Roche is acquiring for €380 million up front. Rogan was Inflazome’s chairman, Gros led the investment for Novartis, and Patel held a board seat.

In addition to Rogan and Patel, Priothera’s board includes HealthCap’s Mårten Steen, Tekla’s Henry Skinner and EarlyBird’s Lionel Carnot.

TARGETS

S1PR – Sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor

Contacts

Priothera
Florent Gros, CEO
E : info@priothera.com

Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Sylvie Berrebi, David Dible, Frazer Hall
E: priothera@citigatedewerogerson.com
T: +44 (0)7714 306525

Press Release

Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

October 2020

Priothera closes €30 million Series A financing to develop highly promising therapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

Financing to advance mocravimod, a modulator of sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P) receptors, and potential best-in-class therapy for AML patients

DUBLIN, Ireland –  12th October 2020: Priothera Limited, a clinical stage company developing orally applied sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P) receptor modulators for haematological malignancies, today announced that it  has successfully closed a Series A financing round of €30 million led by Fountain Healthcare Partners with participation from co-lead investor HealthCap and funds managed by Tekla Capital  Management, LLC as well as EarlyBird Venture Capital.

Priothera will use the funds to progress the clinical development of mocravimod, a modulator of sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P) receptors, to enhance the curative potential of allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for treating AML. Priothera expects to generate further randomized clinical data in high risk AML patients with this Series A funding round.  

Mocravimod has already been extensively tested in multiple immunologic indications and has shown survival benefit in an early clinical study evaluating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).  Priothera acquired mocravimod from KYORIN Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Following the closing of the financing, Florent Gros (Priothera’s Co-Founder and CEO), Dr. Dhaval Patel (Priothera’s Co-Founder and CSO at UCB), Dr. Manus Rogan (Fountain Healthcare Partners Co-Founder and Managing Director), Dr. Mårten Steen (Partner at HealthCap), Dr. Henry Skinner (Senior Vice President at Tekla Capital Management, LLC) and Lionel Carnot (Partner at EarlyBird Venture Capital), have joined the Board of Directors.

 

Florent Gros, Co-Founder and CEO of Priothera, commented, “We are delighted to welcome this terrific syndicate of investors, who share our passion, commitment, and vision for advancing Priothera’s potentially best-in-class new therapy, mocravimod, in patients with acute myeloid leukemia and other hematologic malignancies. Allogenic stem cell transplant is the only potentially curative approach for AML patients, but has unacceptably high mortality with current treatments.  We are excited about mocravimod which has a unique mechanism of action and clinical proof of concept demonstrating its ability to improve survival outcomes for this devastating disease.”

Dr. Dhaval Patel, Co-Founder and Board Director of Priothera, who previously led Research Europe and the Autoimmunity, Transplantation and Inflammation Disease Area at Novartis, known for its success in developing other S1P receptor modulators, stated, Mocravimod is an outstanding, well-characterized and well-behaved S1P receptor modulator that is well-suited for clinical development and commercial manufacturing. Based on the clinical results to date, mocravimod has the potential to be a best-in-class therapy to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with HSCT for AML. I have high hopes that Priothera can make an impactful difference for these patients.”

Commenting on the launch of the company, Dr. Manus Rogan, Chairman of Priothera  added, “The Priothera team has identified and validated a novel commercial opportunity for an S1P receptor modulator allowing the company to complete this significant Series A funding round. With their extensive expertise and capabilities I am confident that Florent and the team are uniquely placed to successfully generate futher clinical data to highlight the significant potential of  mocravimod.

Priothera

Priothera is leading the way in developing orally applied sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P) receptor modulators for haematological malignancies. S1P receptor modulators have been suggested to largely reduce egress of T cell subsets from lymphatic tissues allowing for dual inhibition of graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD) and enhancing graft-versus-leukemia benefits in patients receiving allogenic stem cell transplant.

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Priothera was founded in 2020 by Drs. Florent Gros and Dhaval Patel. Joining the founding team are the experienced industry executive, Dr. Christoph Bucher, Dr Simone Seiter, and Brice Suire.

Founding investors are Fountain Healthcare Partners (Dublin, Ireland), funds managed by Tekla Capital  Management, LLC (Boston, Massachusetts), HealthCap (Stockholm, Sweden) and EarlyBird Venture Capital (Berlin, Germany).

KYORIN Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Trusted among patients and professionals in the medical industry, KYORIN Pharmaceutical strives to be a company that contributes to public health and is recognized as a key player with social significance, by improving its presence in specific therapeutic areas through global discovery programs of novel drugs.  KYORIN Pharmaceutical uses a franchise customer strategy where its marketing efforts are focused on respiratory, otolaryngology and urology indications.  In drug discovery, Kyorin is deploying ‘selection and concentration’ approach and is promoting activities aimed at identifying first-in-class drug candidates. Actively searching for and introducing external drug discovery themes as well as multi-tiered program development are at the center of Kyorin’s effforts.

Fountain Healthcare Partners

Fountain Healthcare Partners is a life science focused venture capital fund with EUR 300 million (USD 354 million) under management. Within the life science sector, specific areas of interest to Fountain include specialty pharma, medical devices, biotechnology and diagnostics. The firm deploys the majority of its capital in Europe, with the balance in the United States. Fountain’s main office is in Dublin, Ireland, with a second office in New York. fh-partners.com.

HealthCap

HealthCap is a family of venture capital funds investing globally in life sciences. With more than EUR 1 billion raised since the start in 1996, HealthCap is one of the largest specialized providers of venture capital within life sciences in Europe. The investment strategy focuses on diseases with high-unmet medical needs and breakthrough therapies that have the potential to be transformative and change medical practice, and the lives of patients suffering these conditions. Over the years HealthCap has backed and built more than 100 companies, taken more than 40 companies public and done numerous trade sales.

Tekla

Tekla Capital Management LLC is a registered investment adviser based in Boston, Massachusetts and is the investment adviser for four closed-end funds, Tekla Healthcare Investors, Tekla Life Sciences Investors, Tekla Healthcare Opportunities Fund and Tekla World Healthcare Fund. The Funds predominately invest in the securities of public and private healthcare companies.

Earlybird

Earlybird is a venture capital investor focused on European technology companies. Founded in 1997, Earlybird invests in all growth and development phases of a company. Amongst the most experienced venture investors in Europe, Earlybird offers its portfolio companies not only financial resources, but also strategic and operational support as well as access to an international network and capital markets. Earlybird manages separate funds focussing on digital technologies in Eastern and Western Europe as well as healthcare across Europe. With over EUR 1 billion under management, seven IPOs and 24 trade sales, Earlybird is one of the most successful venture capital firms in Europe.

Contacts

Priothera
Florent Gros, CEO
E : info@priothera.com

Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Sylvie Berrebi, David Dible, Frazer Hall
E: priothera@citigatedewerogerson.com
T: +44 (0)7714 306525