Company’s collaborative partnership with IRICoR, Université de Montréal and MaRS Innovation, funded by Merck Canada, to advance macrocycle drug
TORONTO and MONTREAL, Nov. 10, 2014 — Encycle Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology start-up founded by Dr. Andrei Yudin of the University of Toronto in partnership with MaRS Innovation, is developing its lead orally-bioavailable macrocycle drug to target integrin a4b7, which is involved in the inflammatory process in a number of diseases, most notably for inflammatory bowel disease.
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To support and advance this molecule, Encycle Therapeutics is collaboratively partnering with the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer — Commercialization of Research (IRICoR), the Université de Montréal (UdeM) and MaRS Innovation. The partnership builds on the Merck Canada Inc. $4 million public-private funding partnership, announced at BIO in April 2013, to develop collaborative research projects with three Canadian academic commercialization centres, including MaRS Innovation and IRICoR.
“We are pleased to help support this important research collaboration that is made possible through the Quebec-Ontario corridor project in an emerging technology area. IRICoR, MaRS Innovation and Encycle have clearly leveraged their respective strengths to accelerate the discovery of novel therapeutics. As a research-focused company committed to early stage private-public partnering, we believe that such interactions will continue to fuel innovation in the life science sector in Canada,” said Mr. Chirfi Guindo, president and managing director, Merck Canada Inc.
The agreement brings a significant investment to fund Encycle Therapeutics’ development work, giving IRICoR an equity position and expanding MaRS Innovation’s equity stake. Cumulatively, Encycle Therapeutics has secured more than $2.5 million to advance its drug development platform.
“Through this year-long collaboration, Encycle Therapeutics will increase the number of full-time scientists devoted to this project from four to seven,” said Jeffrey Coull, CEO. “We’re impressed by the cross-disciplinary calibre of scientists working in IRICoR’s ecosystem, many of whom have extensive industry experience within Quebec’s pharmaceutical sector. We look forward to the synergies their talent will produce in concert with our existing team.”
The partnership will fund and deploy a number of experienced medicinal chemists at UdeM’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) to optimize Encycle Therapeutics’ lead molecule. Additional studies will be conducted at the biopharmacy platform of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UdeM, while Encycle Therapeutics conducts other project-related activities, including pre-clinical efficacy studies.
“Encycle Therapeutics has spent the last 18 months demonstrating the significant potential of its innovative macrocyle chemistry platform to generate small-cell permeable systems,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “This achievement has resulted in multiple partnership opportunities, affirming its position as one of Canada’s emerging biotechnology companies to watch. We are excited to see their first product offering advancing through this unique and creative partnership that will further the existing relationship between Ontario and Québec and position the company for follow-on financing.”
“We are very pleased to be working with both Encycle and MaRS Innovation on this project, which would not have been possible without the support of Merck Canada,” said Michel Bouvier, CEO of IRICoR and IRIC. “Our highly experienced medicinal chemistry team, which has previously delivered clinical candidates, is looking forward to making a major contribution to this project.”
About Encycle Therapeutics Inc.
Encycle Therapeutics is a Toronto-based biotech company exploiting a unique platform technology that enables the rapid synthesis of drug-like macrocycles or membrane-permeable nacellins. Nacellins have enormous potential to target intracellular protein-protein interactions, which are largely intractable to small molecule and biologic modulation, and can represent cheaper, oral equivalents to existing biologics (e.g., monoclonal antibodies). Encycle has collaborated with several pharmaceutical companies to complete a screening library of nacellins, many of which are cell-permeable and possess other drug-like properties. The company is also pursuing independent development of nacellins against integrin alpha-4-beta-7 (IBD) and SMURF2 (fibrosis); its lead program seeks to develop orally bioavailable inhibitors of integrin alpha-4-beta-7, which are safer and less immunogenic than marketed and investigational biologics targeting the same protein.
About MaRS Innovation
MaRS Innovation (MI) is the commercialization agent for 15 leading academic institutions in Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s largest academic cluster. As a single-entry point to $1 billion in annual research and development, MI is a gateway for investors and licensees to access technology assets. Supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and by its 15 member institutions, MI is a transformational partnership that turns research strengths into commercial opportunities. Its portfolio includes the most promising assets from its members’ pipeline, which it advances into global markets through industry partnerships, licensing and company creation.
About Merck Canada Inc.
Today’s Merck is working to help the world be well. Merck is a global health care leader with a diversified portfolio of prescription medicines, vaccines and animal health products. In Canada, Merck markets more than 250 pharmaceutical and animal health products. Merck is a leader in a broad range of areas such as cardiology, infectious diseases, respiratory, vaccines and women’s health, and is focused on expanding offerings in other areas, including virology, oncology and diabetes. Based in Montréal, Québec, Merck employs approximately 975 people across Canada. The Merck Canada manufacturing facility in Québec has been designated by its parent company as a Centre of Excellence for the global production of liquids, ointments and creams. Merck is one of the top R&D investors in Canada, with investments totaling $22.6 million in 2013 and more than $1 billion since 2000.
About the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer
An ultra-modern research hub and training centre located in the heart of the Université de Montreal, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) was created in 2003 to shed light on the mechanisms of cancer and discover new, more effective therapies to counter this disease. IRIC operates according to a model that is unique in Canada. Its innovative approach to research has already led to discoveries that will, over the coming years, have a significant impact on the fight against cancer.
About the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer — Commercialization of Research
The Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer — Commercialization of Research (IRICoR) is a not-for-profit drug discovery and commercialization centre based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal (UdeM). IRICoR’s main objective is to rapidly translate highly innovative scientific projects from IRIC, UdeM and various centres into high value novel therapies in oncology, immunology and related indications through strong partnerships with the private sector — thereby efficiently bridging the innovation translation gap between early stage academic research and industry.
About the Université de Montréal
Deeply rooted in Montreal and dedicated to its international mission, the Université de Montréal is one of the top universities in the French-speaking world. Founded in 1878, the Université de Montréal today has 16 faculties and together with its two affiliated schools, HEC Montréal and École Polytechnique, constitutes the largest centre of higher education and research in Québec and one of the major centres in North America. It brings together 2,600 professors and researchers, accommodates more than 65,000 students.