Blade Therapeutics gains rest of series B, picks leading candidate

The startup has the backing of Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis.

Big Pharma-backed antifibrotic startup Blade has triggered the remaining tranche of last summer’s $45 million series B after placing its bets on a leading trial med.

The South San Francisco, California-based biotech, which is doing early work in fibrosis, has said it has picked its lead program, which is “focused on small molecule inhibitors that selectively target certain intracellular cysteine proteases.” More detailed information was not given in the release, although it will be geared toward fibrosis.

Its series B, announced last June, included investment from Deerfield Management, MPM Capital, Pfizer Venture Investments, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Osage University Partners.

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The funds from its second tranche are booked in to help boost work on its leading med and get it into the clinic, as well as to continue to build out the pipeline.

“I am very proud of the team for their progress in developing a best-in-class clinical candidate,” said Blade CEO Wendye Robbins, M.D. “Along with the additional funding, Blade is on track with IND-enabling studies, and is well positioned to enter the clinic in mid-2018.”

Founded in the fall of 2015, Blade is based upon technology in-licensed from Johns Hopkins University, in particular, on work from the lab of Harry Dietz, M.D., a professor of genetics and medicine at the university and the company’s founder. His work focuses on the cause of a pair of fibrotic diseases: Marfan syndrome and stiff skin syndrome, which forms the basis of Blade’s investigation into new biological pathways involved in tissue fibrosis and dysfunction.

The startup got $500,000 in debt in May of 2015 to in-license the technology and form the company. Then it pulled off a $6.5 million series A with Luke Evnin’s MPM Capital and Osage University Partners, both of which also participated in the latest round. The company has already nominated a lead series of molecules.