BioCentury features Vasomune Therapeutics

Vasomune Therapeutics logoVasomune Therapeutics, a MaRS Innovation start-up company from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Sunnybrook Research Institute, was featured in a BioCentury emerging company profile by Michael J. Haas.

The company is currently raising a Series A financing round and recently closed a seed investment with Genome Canada and an unnamed industry partner. MaRS Innovation also contributed a third of the investment, bringing the round’s total to $1.5 million.

Haas’ profile, “Vasomune: Lassoing Tie2,” is available behind a paywall on the BioCentury website.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Agonizing Tie2 could restore vascular integrity and limit tissue damage in kidney injury, but bringing together the four copies needed to activate the receptor is a job too big for small molecules or antibodies. Vasomune Therapeutics Inc. has shown its four-armed peptidomimetic, vasculotide, activates Tie2 and restores vascular integrity in [preclinical]  models.

“Many renal diseases are ultimately characterized by a loss in vascular integrity that damages tubules in the kidney,” CEO Parimal Nathwani said. “Our idea is to use vasculotide to fix the problem and restore normal vascular integrity before it gets out of control.”

Tyrosine kinase receptor 2 (Tie2) is expressed primarily on endothelial cells and maintains vascular integrity through competing interactions with two of its ligands: angiopoietin 1(ANG1; ANGPT1), which activates it; and ANG2, which antagonizes it.

In patients with sepsis and acute kidney injury (AKI), circulating levels of ANG2 correlate with disease severity. Preclinical studies have also shown that overexpressing ANG1 normalizes Tie2 activity and vascular integrity in AKI and sepsis models.

However, ANG1 is hard to purify, is unstable and has poor drug-like properties, making it an unsuitable therapeutic agent, according to Paul
Van Slyke, cofounder and CSO of Vasomune.

Development of synthetic Tie2 agonists is also challenging because the receptor must form a cluster containing at least four Tie2 molecules
to become active.

“We realized that if Tie2-binding peptides could be clustered together in the right way, Tie2 could be activated,” Van Slyke told BioCentury.

Van Slyke and Daniel Dumont, the company’s other cofounder, linked four copies of a Tie2-binding peptide that did not interfere with ANG1-Tie2 or ANG2-Tie2 interactions to a polyethylene glycol (PEG) scaffold.

. . .

No other companies have disclosed Tie2 agonists. At least seven have therapies in preclinical to Phase II testing to treat AKI. Nathwani said all of these are either antiapoptotics that aim to repair renal damage or general anti-inflammatories, and none has a disease-modifying effect.

Vasomune has raised C$1.2 million ($1.1 million) in seed funding, largely from MaRS Innovation. While those funds are sufficient to take vasculotide through IND, the company is planning a series A round for 2015 that would support clinical development, Nathwani said.

No online version of this story is currently available.