UPDATED: Allied Minds’ investment firm rakes in $100M for drug discovery

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Boston-based matchmaking biotech Allied Minds has secured $100 million from its new investment arm to help it fund and develop up to 10 drug discovery programs.

The funds have been funnelled through its new subsidiary ABLS Capital from investors including Woodford Investment Management and Invesco Asset Management--who stumped up $60 million between them.

ABLS Capital will fund 80% of the lead optimisation phase of up to 10 new drug candidates that pass initial feasibility studies funded by Allied-Bristol Life Sciences (ABLS). The ABLS is an alliance between Allied Minds and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), which saw the two team up back in 2014 in a matchmaking effort for academic and governmental researchers to open up R&D opportunities.

The remaining 20% of lead optimisation phase investment--or up to an additional $20 million--will be funded by BMS, bringing the total to $100 million.

Under the investment deal, ABLS Capital will be able to inject some of the cash into early-stage subsidiary companies of ABLS with drug candidates aimed at addressing diseases with large unmet medical need and large market size. ABLS, naturally, focuses on drug discovery in areas of “strategic interest” to BMS.

ABLS currently focuses on fibrosis, cardiovascular, oncology, immunology and genetically defined diseases. When a company backed by the investment arms completes its feasibility program, ABLS will give out more cash for the next stage of development.  Ultimately if a project is successful it can be sold to BMS under pre-agreed terms.

Chris Silva, CEO of Allied Minds, told FierceBiotech that this was the first time this sort of discovery-funding structure had been used. “It’s very attractive to university inventors because it brings a big pharma to the deal with the desire to take the candidate drug through FDA into market. There is also a shorter timeline to market as we intend to complete pre-clinical development within 18-36 months.”

Silva said the current investment will be focused on academic groups and researchers in the U.S., adding that there are no immediate plans to go outside the country: “At a group level we saw over 5,000 new technologies from our US research network in 2015--adding 90 new research institutions to our partner network from 68 at the end of the previous year.

“That is keeping us busy enough for now so we have no plans to extend the network outside the U.S. It is, after all, the largest R&D market in the world.”  But while its pipeline is U.S.-centric, he did add that the company “will consider deal flow from our partner [BMS] which has global reach.”

ABLS Capital’s sole purpose is to co-invest with BMS and Allied Minds. The raison d'etre is to generate high returns in drug discovery with a “significantly lower risk profile”, according to the biotech’s statement.  

To date, ABLS has launched 3 subsidiaries to license and initiate development work on proprietary assets from Yale University, Harvard University and NYU School of Medicine. 

ABLS I deals with fibrotic diseases, with IP from Harvard; ABLS II is focused on prostate cancer, with IP from Yale; and ABLS III--aka iβeCa Therapeutics--is researching cancer through compounds targeting the WnT pathway, with IP from NYU.

Silva said that through these three groups: “We have proven that we can find exciting novel IP with significant potential in the areas of strategic interest to BMS. We were therefore thinking about how we can fund the next phase of development for these assets should they, as we expect, successfully complete feasibility studies.

“In addition we have a number of other opportunities that we are conducting due diligence on that may develop into ABLS subsidiaries. So we have found an innovative way to fund the optimisation phases of existing--should they achieve satisfactory results in the feasibility stage--and future compounds, with commitments from investors on agreed terms now. This de-risks and accelerates drug discovery and development in extremely important disease areas.”

-check out the release