BIO: EpimAb bags $74M to push EGFR/cMET bispecific, build out pipeline

PHILADELPHIA—EpimAb Therapeutics reeled in a $74 million series B to build out its bispecifics pipeline and advance its lead program, an antibody that targets EGFR and cMET on track to enter phase 2 in 2020.

The Shanghai-based company drew the funding from SDIC Fund, Sherpa Healthcare Partners and SCVC, as well as from its series A backers 3E Bioventure Capital, Decheng Capital, Oriza Seed Capital and the Trend Investment Group.

EpimAb’s pipeline is based on its Fabs-in-Tandem Immunoglobin technology, or Fit-IG for short. “An antibody is a Y-shape, where the two handles of the ‘Y’ are the fabs,” Stephan Lensky, the company’s chief operating officer and chief business officer, told FierceBiotech. Using its Fit-IG platform, EpimAb essentially sticks two more fabs—or antigen-binding fragments—onto the arms of the “Y” to make a bispecific antibody.

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"It sounds simple,” Lensky said. But messing with sensitive antibody structures can cause problems, such as mispairing, where the chains of proteins that make up the antibody come together incorrectly and make them unable to bind their targets. EpimAb’s technology builds bispecifics in a way that the only pairing that can happen is correct, Lensky said.

“In terms of how we avoid others’ pitfalls, you shouldn’t ask what’s special about this format that others don’t have,” he said. “It’s actually what it does not have that others have that sets it apart.”

Other bispecific antibodies face problems like domain steric hindrance, meaning the arms of the “Y” are too close to properly bind to its targets, or instability, thanks to a mutated Fc region, the stem of the “Y.” They may use peptide linkers to hold the bispecific’s parts together, but that can result in the body making antibodies against the treatment—“which is what you don’t want,” Lensky said.

EpimAb reckons it’s the only bispecific player that’s put together a format that has no mutations, no linkers, no non-antibody ingredients and uses the full Fc region.

EMB-101, the EGFR- and cMET-targeting antibody, was first in the clinic, but EpimAb plans to follow it with a couple more in 2020. The company’s focus is cancer, though the platform could be used in immunology or hematology—after all, Hemlibra, the hemophilia treatment, was the second bispecific antibody to reach the market, Lensky said.

“We have many more in discovery against different targets. Number two will be a dual checkpoint inhibitor, but we’re not disclosing the target yet,” Lensky said.

The company could also expand its pipeline by licensing its platform to partners. It’s already working with Cambridge, U.K.-based Kymab as well as with China’s Innovent and Teruisi. Kymab and Innovent are both working in oncology, but they could also deploy the tech in other areas.

“Definitely, there are certain areas we will not look into because we are far too small to go into all kinds of different indications,” Lensky said.