After two years in the making, AgomAb Therapeutics is coming out of stealth with a €21 million ($23.5 million) series A round to develop agonistic monoclonal antibodies—or “agomAbs”—that could potentially treat a variety of diseases. The financing should give AgomAb the runway to get its first antibody ready for the clinic.
Based in Ghent, Belgium, AgomAb was founded upon the work of Paolo Michieli, Ph.D., who has researched hepatocyte growth factor, or HGF, at the University of Torino for more than two decades. HGF plays a role in cell functions such as proliferation, survival and differentiation and can promote wound healing and tissue regeneration, AgomAb CEO Tim Knotnerus told FierceBiotech. The company’s preclinical work has shown that HGF has “tremendous therapeutic applicability” in fibrotic and regenerative areas, but Knotnerus declined to specify which indications the company might be most interested in.
Despite being an attractive target for various fibrotic, inflammatory, autoimmune and degenerative conditions, HGF has “poor druglike properties,” which has precluded its translation from research labs into the clinic, Knotnerus said.
This is where the “agomAbs” come in. AgomAb has an exclusive license to an antibody platform from Netherlands-based Argenx that is based on the llama immune system. It will use the technology to create HGF-mimetic agonistic antibodies—a drug that will agonize, or dial up, the HGF pathway and deliver the benefits of HGF with “good antibody properties, like a lower half-life and better manufacturability,” Knotnerus said.
Argenx has a pipeline of in-house and partnered assets that includes antibodies for blood cancers, autoimmune diseases and dyslipidemia. It licensed its tech to AgomAb under a program designed to open up the platform to academic researchers and biotech companies who might exploit it in promising areas.
AgomAb's series A came from investors spanning Belgium, France, Germany and Israel: V-Bio Ventures, Advent France Biotechnology, Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Omnes and Pontifax. With the cash, AgoMab plans to bring at least one antibody to the IND stage. Along with the Argenx deal and financing, the company also announced its leadership team: Joining Knotnerus are Chief Development Officer Torsten Dreier, Ph.D., who held that role at Argenx, which he also co-founded, and Michieli, the chief scientific officer.
Over time, AgomAbs will add to its clinical and corporate staff, but Knotnerus kept the specifics under wraps.