UK Biotech Closes €50M Series A for GPCR Drug Discovery

OMass Therapeutics GPCR

Oxford-based OMass Therapeutics has extended its Series A round by €33M to fund the spectrometry-assisted development of drugs targeting G protein-coupled receptors.

OMass Therapeutics’s Series A initially raised €17M in late 2018. The new funds bring this up to €50M (£41.5M).

Investors in the most recent fundraise included the UK VC firm Syncona — which provided €20M — the investment firm Oxford Sciences Innovation — which contributed €12.6M — and the University of Oxford, which pitched in €600,000.

The money will fund OMass’s preclinical drug development for the next two years. The company is designing small molecule drugs to treat unspecified immunological and genetic disorders. The drugs are designed to block three proteins found on the cell membrane that belong to a class called G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs. 

GPCRs make up a class containing around 800 cell surface proteins involved in many different types of diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Many GPCRs are considered hard drug targets because they are tricky to examine in traditional drug studies.

OMass aims to overcome the difficulty of these target proteins with the help of a technique called native mass spectrometry, in which it claims to be a world leader. This technique differs from regular mass spectrometry in that it can detect proteins in their ‘native’ shapes and is more representative of how they behave in the body. It can monitor how well drugs block proteins at a resolution that is better than traditional pharmacology assays.

Emerging biophysical technologies like native mass spectrometry can meaningfully improve drug discovery and impact global health outcomes,” stated Lachlan Mackinnon, Principal at Oxford Sciences Innovation.

A number of other biotechs aim to mine the GPCR class for new drug targets. For example, Sosei Heptares, a Japanese-UK company, is developing drugs to target GPCRs for the treatment of neurological disorders. In addition, the Belgian biotech Confo Therapeutics raised a €30M Series A in 2019 to develop drugs targeting this class.

Images from Shutterstock

Explore other topics: Oxford Sciences InnovationSyncona

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