Upstream Bio to target asthma as it launches with $200M financing


Upstream Bio, a U.S. biotech company focused on inflammation, today exited stealth mode with $200M Series A financing. 

The company said the funding will allow it to advance its lead program UPB-101, a clinical-stage monoclonal antibody targeting the thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) receptor.

It added the investment will also help build a pipeline of assets to address immune-mediated diseases. 

The funding round was led jointly by OrbiMed and Maruho Co., Ltd. with participation from Access Biotechnology, Decheng Capital, HBM Healthcare Investments, TCG X, Omega Funds, Samsara BioCapital, and Altshuler Shaham Provident Funds Ltd.

Upstream Bio acquired UPB-101 from Japanese pharma company Astellas following the successful completion of initial clinical and preclinical studies. Upstream has selected asthma as the first target for UPB-101, with plans to investigate additional diseases driven by TSLP-mediated inflammation. 

Stimulated by allergens, viruses, and other triggers, release of TSLP is a key driver of inflammatory response in major allergic and inflammatory diseases, including asthma. 

“Because TSLP signaling occurs upstream of other targets, we have an opportunity to impact a fundamental aspect of asthma pathobiology,” said Aaron Deykin, chief medical officer and head of R&D at Upstream Bio. 

“Targeting the TSLP receptor is a compelling mechanism, providing the potential to inhibit multiple pathological processes with a single treatment. We plan to establish clinical proof-of-concept in asthma, where we believe UPB-101 can deliver meaningful efficacy across a broad spectrum of severe asthma patients regardless of inflammatory phenotype.”

Samantha Truex, Upstream Bio’s CEO, said, “Beyond asthma, we plan to pursue additional inflammatory diseases with UPB-101 and explore new additions to our pipeline where we believe we can deliver meaningful outcomes for patients.”

Executive team

Upstream Bio is led by a team of biotech industry veterans.

Chief executive officer Samantha Truex has worked with immunology-focused companies Quench Bio and Padlock following experience at Biogen and Genzyme.

Aaron Deykin joined Upstream Bio as chief medical officer and head of research and development from Biogen, where he was SVP head of clinical sciences. Deykin is a pulmonologist who previously held leadership positions at the Brigham and Women’s Asthma Research Center and Pulmonary Function Laboratory as well as publishing on asthma clinical outcomes.

Jen Beachell, chief commercial officer, joined Upstream from Janssen, where she was VP of global commercial strategy, autoantibody disease area, after leading commercial strategy for Momenta. She also had previous roles at Human Genome Sciences, MedImmune and Ortho Biotech.

Chief business officer Adam Houghton joined Upstream from AbbVie, where he led venture investing and previously had positions at AbbVie and Lilly.

Upstream’s co-founder Oren M. Becker, a biopharma entrepreneur, has served as founding president of R&D and will continue to serve in an advisory role for Upstream Bio.

About asthma

Asthma is a long-term disease that causes inflammation and swelling of the airways. This results in a narrowing of the airways that carry air to the lungs.

Symptoms include breathing difficulties, wheezing, coughing, and tightness or pain in the chest.

There is no cure for asthma, but treatment can help those suffering from asthma attacks.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), approximately 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma. The organization said in 2018, 5.8 million visits to the doctor were related to asthma, and the condition leads to 11 deaths per day in the U.S.

The economic cost of asthma is also high. The AAFA said from 2008-2013, the annual economic cost of asthma was more than $81.9B, which includes medical costs, and loss of work and school days.

Precedence Research said the global asthma drugs market size is predicted to surpass around $37.3B by 2030 from $20.6B in 2020.

In 2019, AstraZeneca’s asthma drug Fasenra was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while GlaxoSmithKline’s Nucala was approved by the FDA to treat severe eosinophilic asthma for children in the six to 11 age range.

The UK’s Synairgen has also been studying the protein interferon beta for years as a candidate for the treatment of respiratory conditions.

Cover image via Shutterstock

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