Montreal, the largest city in Canada’s Quebec province, has seen a boom in life sciences over the years. Home to The Biotech City, a hub that connects and supports biopharmaceutical companies within the region as well as attracts talent from across the world, Montreal rivals the likes of Vancouver and Toronto, in being the leading biotech hub in the country.
As it contributes to 79% of Quebec’s gross domestic product (GDP), the second largest Canadian city has a competitive advantage in the life science sector due to its significant growth in areas such as pharmaceuticals, digital health, and artificial intelligence.
The presence of non-profit organizations like Montreal InVivo that mobilize a cluster of over 600 organizations, as well as several universities like University of Montreal and McGill University touted as top institutions for graduating with a life science degree in the province, attracts researchers to the region.
In this article, let us take a look at five of the hottest biotech companies in Montreal, that were founded over the past decade, and that have received funding in recent years to accelerate their drug pipelines.
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Congruence Therapeutics, a biotech company that was founded two years ago in Montreal, closed its series A funding round earlier this year, which now amounts to a total U.S. $65 million. With these investments, the company aims to advance its Revenir platform.
Revenir is a computational drug discovery platform to discover and develop drugs that stabilize misfolded proteins. This can then provide a better understanding of how the mutation in those proteins took place, and how to correct or reverse it. Once the mutations – that are associated with a particular disease – have been detected and studied, Revenir creates a map of all the druggable pockets, which are then screened and evaluated, to eventually aid in drug discovery. The platform avoids the need for high throughput screening and helps save on time and cost when compared to traditional drug design methods.
Through its Revenir platform, Congruence Therapeutics is developing its lead program CGX Program 1 as well as CGX Programs ½, 2 and 3, for the treatment of various genetic metabolic diseases, neurological conditions and cancer.
Specializing in precision medicine, Giiant Pharma’s lead candidate follows a gut-restricted approach – meaning that the drug stays within the gut with minimal exposure to the rest of the body – to treating gastro-intestinal disorders. GT-2108 is designed to target irritable bowel disease (IBD) – a condition where nearly half the patients do not respond well to current therapies.
The candidate’s mechanism is to inhibit the enzyme phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) – which is highly expressed during inflammation. First, the prodrug is inactive and poorly absorbed and, as a result, remains restricted to the gut. This prevents the systemic exposure of its active form, allowing for safer therapies. It is then activated by the gut microbiome where it targets the site of inflammation in the intestinal tract. In addition to this preclinical asset, Giiant is also advancing GT-1908, another PDE4 prodrug inhibitor for the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
Founded in 2014 in the Montreal region, the preclinical-stage company has signed a licensing agreement with California-based biotech Palisade Bio for the future commercialization of Giiant Pharma’s pipeline products. Previously this year, Giiant Pharma was awarded U.S. $500,000 from the US Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, through its IBD Ventures program. With the help of this grant, Giiant Pharma looks to pursue GT-2108, and aims to file for its investigational new drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA).
Based in Montreal, the biotech company Inversago Pharma has been making headlines of late since it was acquired by Danish multinational company Novo Nordisk this month for up to U.S. $1.075 billion.
Its lead drug candidate, INV-202, is a small molecule CB1 receptor (CB1r) blocker that is being developed to treat metabolic disorders like diabetic kidney disease (DKD). Blocking the CB1r in peripheral tissues like the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas, adipose tissues, muscles, and lungs, can help regulate metabolism and appetite.
Currently in phase 2 studies for DKD, INV-202 has also shown weight loss potential in a phase 1b trial. Focused on developing CB1r blockers, the pharmaceutical also has INV-101 and the INV-300 series, in the mix. INV-101 is currently in preclinical stages for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Set up in 2015, Inversago Pharma has raised a total of U.S. $111.3 million in funds, with the most recent round bringing in investments worth U.S. $69.3 million, last October. The financing round saw participation from venture capitals like New Enterprise Associates in the U.S., and Montreal-based Fonds de solidarité FTQ, among others.
The company’s co-founders David White’s and Stephanie Mok’s interest in cell therapies during their PhD days led them to found Modulari-T Biosciences in 2021, a Montreal-based biotech focused on cell and gene therapies.
The oncology startup is working on creating chimeric antigen T cell receptors that are capable of reprogramming cells, in a bid to engineer immune cells to identify and attack cancer cells, as well as potentially aid in the production of stem cells to be able to regenerate tissues. The receptors are built using a modular scaffold as the therapies aim to decrease side effects and enhance potency.
Recently, in a pre-seed funding round, the company obtained funding from startup accelerator Y Combinator, and has raised a total of U.S. $500, 000 this year.
Involved in the field of proteomics, Nomic aims to profile proteins through its nELISA technology, a modified version of the famed ELISA tests, that uses DNA nanotechnology.
Pairs of target-specific antibodies are assembled prior to assaying at the surface of every bead. Target proteins are then identified by the capture and detection antibodies, which together form a sandwich complex, with the detection antibody bound to the bead which is then labeled with a fluorescent dye. The company uses the nELISA platform to help researchers who want to profile proteins faster and more precisely, while using a simple workflow based on commercially available instrumentation.
Having been around since 2017, Montreal-based biotech Nomic has raised a total of U.S. $18 million over six funding rounds. The latest round, which was closed in 2021, saw investments worth U.S. $17 million pouring in from U.S.-based investment firms like Lux Capital, Casdin Capital, SR One and Trajectory Ventures.