Putting a spotlight on critical unmet healthcare needs
D&D Pharmatech funds the development of innovative therapeutic and diagnostic solutions to address critical unmet healthcare needs. D&D subsidiary Theraly Fibrosis is developin a novel treatment for chronic pancreatitis and other fibrosis, recently granted an orphan drug designation from the US FDA.
Clinical-stage global biotech company D&D Pharmatech was founded with a mission to drive the development of novel medicines through disease-specific subsidiary companies founded and guided by a top-tier medical research faculty. With two primary research and development sites in Pangyo, Republic of Korea, and Gaithersburg, MD, USA, this corporate structure allows D&D Pharmatech to focus on accelerating the translation of cutting-edge research into lifesaving therapeutic products for patients.
D&D Pharmatech has set up a pipeline that includes clinical candidates and investigational medicines for a range of neurodegenerative indications and fibrotic disease developed through licensing agreements with leading academic research institutions. Since its founding in 2014, D&D Pharmatech has established three subsidiaries in the USA—Theraly Fibrosis, Inc., Neuraly, Inc. and Precision Molecular, Inc.—and is continuously looking for new opportunities to source innovative solutions.
A new TRAIL for fibrotic disease
Theraly Fibrosis is a preclinical-stage company founded in 2015 to develop innovative treatments for various forms of life-threatening fibrotic disease. The company’s lead development program centers on human tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). TRAIL helps remove activated myofibroblasts—the key contributors to fibrotic disease—and blocks de novo activation of normal fibroblasts regardless of tissue type1 (Fig. 1). Because of this, the strategy has the potential to be a first-in-class treatment for a range of fibrotic diseases, including chronic pancreatitis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis and systemic sclerosis.
TRAIL has been widely studied as an anti-cancer compound for the past 20 years, but its half-life of only 0.5 hours precluded its development as a drug. To overcome this hurdle, Theraly used proprietary PEGylation and protein engineering technology to develop TLY012, a modified version of TRAIL with an extended half-life. The company is first developing TLY012 for chronic pancreatitis, a rare incur- able fibrotic disease characterized by pancreatic inflammation that causes fibrosis, which damages the pancreas and results in the loss of endocrine and exocrine function. In September 2019, TLY012 obtained orphan drug designation from the US Food and Drug Administration, and Theraly is planning to initiate phase 1/2A clinical studies in 2020.
Fig. 1 | Blazing a TRAIL in fibrotic disease. Theraly’s lead product candidate is TLY012, a recombinant version of the human TRAIL protein that selectively targets myofibroblasts (MFB) involved in fibrosis. Reversing fibrosis has the potential to cure fibrotic diseases such as systemic sclerosis, liver fibrosis/cirrhosis, chronic pancreatitis and fibrosis-driven cancers. TLY012 has been granted US FDA orphan drug designation for the treatment of chronic pancreatitis, and Theraly plans to initiate a phase 1/2a clinical trial in 2020.
Theraly’s goal is to further develop TLY012 as a therapy for other major liver diseases2. The market for liver fibrosis and NASH—the largest target markets for TLY012—are growing at high double digit annual rates globally. Phase 1 clinical studies in liver fibrosis are expected to start later in 2020.
“We are planning to carry TLY012 through the end of phase 2 and to license the drug candidate by the end of the phase 2 study, but we would also consider an option-based deal at an earlier time point that secures our development right,” said Joshua Yang, head of business development and corporate strategy. “In addition, we are pursuing value maximization by effective parallel clinical development for multiple indications of TLY012.”
Tackling neurodegenerative diseases
Neuraly and Precision Molecular are tackling neurodegenerative disease by each addressing a major need in the field: developing novel therapeutic agents to cure disease or to slow disease progression, and advancing powerful imaging platforms to improve diagnosis and disease monitoring, respectively.
Neuraly’s lead candidate is NLY01, a potent, long- acting glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor (GLP1R) agonist. NLY01 inhibits microglial activation and the resulting neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD)3 and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Neuraly is planning to start phase 2 clinical trials with NLY01 in PD and AD in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Precision Molecular is advancing four clinical stage imaging agents and one IND-enabling stage PET imaging agent for early detection and management of neuroinflammation in AD and PD. Precision Molecular’s imaging agents target proteins expressed in activated microglia and proteins involved in neuroinflammation, providing a non-invasive approach to quantifying neuroinflammation4 The company plans to market these agents as companion diagnostics for medications such as NLY01 and as straight diagnostics to help identify early-stage and asymptomatic patients.
According to Yang, “Precision Molecular is developing diagnostic technologies to be used together with Neuraly’s pipeline. The resulting synergy sup- ports the companies’ paradigm of ‘early diagnosis— early treatment’.”
Flexible partnering for innovative solutions
Following a successful series B financing round worth $137.1 million, the clinical programs of D&D Pharmatech’s companies are completely funded at this point, but D&D Pharmatech is actively developing its pipeline of new and promising therapies for critical unmet needs in the health sciences.
“We are constantly looking for promising new candidates for development and business collaboration to continue fulfilling our mission of developing innovative drugs to address critical unmet medical needs,” said Yang.
- Park, J.-S. et al. Nat. Commun. 10, 1128 (2019).
- Oh, Y. et al. Hepatology 64, 209–223 (2016).
- Yun, S. P. et al. Nat. Med. 24, 931–938 (2018).
- Horti, A.G. et al. PNAS U.S.A. 116, 1686-1691 (2019).