Regenerative biotech Rodeo gains WuXi, Lilly, AbbVie backing

The startup hopes to be in the clinic in two years

Rodeo Therapeutics Corporation has got off a $5.9 million series A financing round with a list of VC and biopharma all-stars as backers.

Investors included AbbVie Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Lilly, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the Watson Fund, WRF Capital and WuXi AppTec.

The $5.9 million will go toward the upstart’s preclinical work on small-molecule therapies designed to encourage regeneration and repair of multiple tissue types.

The company will be largely managed by Seattle-based biotech investment firm Accelerator Corporation, alongside its founders, under a virtual model.

One of its founder includes Sanford Markowitz, M.D., Ph.D., the Markowitz-Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics and Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, as well as other scientists out of the Case Western Reserve University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Rodeo’s early work focuses on boosting tissue levels of prostaglandin PGE2. Rodeo says that preclinical studies have shown that increasing PGE2 through inhibition of a prostaglandin-degrading enzyme (15-PGDH) speeds up hematopoietic stem cell reconstitution following bone marrow transplant, protects against colitis and promotes liver regeneration in a variety of animal models.

The company will first up focus on developing 15-PGDH inhibitors for inflammatory bowel disease and promoting blood cell reconstitution following bone marrow transplant.

“Tissue damage and degradation play critical roles in the development and progression of a broad array of disease indications, including a variety of inflammatory diseases,” said Markowitz.

“The ability to stimulate the body’s natural processes for tissue regeneration and repair has broad therapeutic potential in disease settings such as ulcerative colitis and in hemopoietic recovery following bone marrow transplantation.”

David Schubert, chief operating officer of Accelerator, tells FierceBiotech he hopes to be in the clinic in two years’ time, and that the company has “a potential candidate that, if data continue to be favorable, can be a clinical candidate.”

He explains that the early operations of Rodeo will be overseen by Accelerator’s core management team, with Thong Le, CEO of Accelerator, also serving as its chief.

“By leveraging Accelerator’s capabilities, Rodeo will be highly focused on achieving key value-building scientific milestones, while the Accelerator management team handles all aspects of business management and scientific oversight. In addition to Rodeo’s interim management, the company will utilize highly talented and capable consultants in the areas of chemistry, biology and early preclinical development, with deep knowledge in drug development.”

It's early days, but I asked whether biopharma tieups were already on his mind: “Our main focus is on driving the scientific development but will be opportunistic if partnering becomes an option.”