Armed with $105M and Big Pharma backing, Mediar takes aim at fibrotic mediators

With a who’s who of Big Pharma on board and over $100 million in funds, Mediar Therapeutics is gearing up to see whether its first-in-class fibrosis therapies will deliver in the clinic.

Mediar’s origin story goes back to the labs of Mass General and Brigham and Women's Hospital, where researchers explored the potential to treat fibrotic disease by targeting the myofibroblast, the key cell type driving fibrosis progression. The company’s pitch is that this approach can offer a more precise treatment option than existing fibrosis therapies, which tend to focus on modulating the underlying immune responses known to drive the onset of disease but can also run the risk of disrupting pro-inflammatory pathways that the body relies on to prevent illness.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech already has three potential antibody treatments in its portfolio, two of which are expected to enter human studies next year. All three of the targets being explored so far “are readily detectable in blood and correlate to disease severity, enabling a de-risked approach to clinical development,” the biotech said in a release Wednesday morning.

Novartis has clearly seen the potential—the Swiss pharma’s venture fund co-led the series A financing round with Sofinnova Partners that raked in $85 million for the biotech. Novartis was far from alone, with Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer all joining in the latest fundraising. Combined with previous funds, it means Mediar has $105 million to play with.

The company is headed up by CEO Rahul Ballal, Ph.D., who previously led Imara until its merger with Enliven Therapeutics last year. Ballal is joined by Chief Scientific Officer Paul Yaworsky, Ph.D., a long-time veteran of Pfizer, where he most recently served as chief opertating officer of inflammation and immunology research.

Mediar's portfolio comprises three novel targets that are readily detectable in blood and correlate to disease severity, enabling a de-risked approach to clinical development. The series A financing will support advancement of the company's portfolio of first-in-class antibody treatments, which aim to address fibrosis at varying stages of the disease, with two programs advancing into human studies in 2024.

Yaworsky flagged the lead WISP-1 program, which is nearing candidate selection, as a particular highlight of the portfolio. The other two programs are currently going through in-vivo proof-of-concept studies.