Last week at BIO-Europe 2015 in Munich, I had the opportunity to meet Torsten Hoffmann, CSO of Proteros who told me more about the recent incursion of his company in the Epigenetics space!
Proteros is a leader of the Structural Biology field. So, what is this field exactly? Usually, when a Pharmaceutical company is looking for a new drug to develop, it screens a huge molecule library on a specific target to hopefully have a ‘hit’ showing an interaction between the molecule and the target. That’s basically like looking for a needle in a haystack!
Structural Biology offers a smarter approach. This technique involves a deep study of the protein of interest to fully understand its 3D structure. Then, instead of only screening thousands of thousands of molecules, the biologist can find the most appropriate molecule that can interact with the target and even have an ‘image’ of how these molecules will work together in our body. That’s not magical, that’s pure science!
Proteros specialized in this science since its foundation in 1999 by Nobel Laureate Professor Robert Huber, a pioneer in structural biology, and his PhD student, co-founder and CEO, Torsten Neuefeind.
Today, the company has established a profitable business based on Structural Biology. Proteros is serving the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies and over 70 clients from industry and academia, worldwide. In just the last 4 years, Proteros has been solving close to 400 structures per annum and elucidated 1,200 protein-ligand structures on more than 150 different targets!
Time for a novel paradigm in drug discovery!
The experience generated by Proteros over the past years in structural biology is an incredible source of innovation for drug discovery research. For this reason, and because of the cash positive situation of the company, Proteros is starting the development of its own pipeline of drug candidates. Torsten Hoffmann recently joined Proteros as CSO, bringing with him an impressive experience in drug discovery and development. Since his arrival, Torsten is supporting Proteros on its new way.
Proteros chose a promising field to start its new development – epigenetics! If you are not aware, epigenetics studies the effects of environmental factors that influence gene expression without changing the DNA sequence. For example, around 90% of all cancers are caused by epigenetic misregulation. Drugs targeting epigenetics are opening a new era in medicine and Proteros will be part of it.
Proteros’ proprietary nucleosomal epigenetic assay technologies (NEAT) provides a most efficacious and physiologically relevant screening approach, allowing to address epigenetic mechanisms for new medicines in a unique approach. Now, this power will be delivered to Proteros’ own portfolio!
In May 2013, Proteros jointly created with Atlas Venture and Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC), a new company called Rodin Therapeutics Inc, based in Boston (US).
Rodin’s foundation was based on new insights into key epigenetic modulators of CNS function found at Proteros. Proteros’ high-resolution X-ray crystallography technology and kinetic profiling has been used to assess the binding capability of varying HDAC2 inhibitor candidates that could play an important role in CNS-related diseases.
Only 12 months after its seed financing, Rodin’s progress led to the closing of a $12.9 million Series A financing by current investors Atlas Venture and JJDC in May 2014. Funding will be used to propel the work from lead optimization to early clinical development of an epigenetic therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and to finance expansion into additional epigenetic modulators focused on cognitive indications.
This discovery pipeline business recently reported a second important cooperation on an epigenetic target.
In October 2015, Proteros’ NEAT engine led to a new partnership with the leading US-based Pharmaceutical company MSD to discover and develop small molecule compounds against an epigenetic target for the potential treatment of various types of cancer. Proteros in return receives upfront and research funding plus milestone payments of up to $126 million plus royalties.
Already a leader in Structural Biology, Proteros may soon become a pioneer of the epigenetics field too! We are sure this strategy will show more under the leadership of Torsten Hoffmann.
Want to know more about Structural Biology and Epigenetics?
This month, Proteros organized the Protein Structure Determination in Industry (PSDI) congress. It’s the first time a German Biotech company has organized this event. Leading experts in the field were participating and Nobel Price Robert Huber opened the event. To know more about it, stay tuned on Labiotech.eu. We’ll bring you an exclusive insight of this event soon!