Canaan-backed Comet uncloaks with $28.5M and biopharma vet De Graaf at the helm

Comet Therapeutics, a biotech taking aim at metabolic diseases, has unveiled itself with $28.5 million in series A financing and biopharma veteran David De Graaf, Ph.D., as its CEO. The capital will bankroll Comet at least through 2021, when it plans to move its first program into the clinic. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech takes its name from Coenzyme A and intermediate metabolism, De Graaf told FierceBiotech. The role of Coenzyme A in metabolism has long been understood, but Comet believes it’s the first to target it to modify disease. Coenzyme A, also called CoA, is a cofactor, or a small molecule that is associated with enzymes. 

“Think of it as a handle that moves other small metabolites from one enzyme to another so that they can be processed,” said De Graaf, the former Syntimmune CEO. “Metabolism isn’t just important for energy production—it’s also important for building every single molecule in the body, whether it is a nucleic acid, a fat, an amino acid or a sugar.” 

With its CoA technology, dubbed CoMET, the company aims to create drugs that treat disease by altering the levels of particular metabolites within cells. But CoA and the metabolites it links up with must be built within the cell—they can’t be delivered ready-made, because enzymes in the body would break them down. To get around this, Comet’s technology delivers the ingredients the body needs to make CoA and its linked metabolites. 

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De Graaf likens the process to building models with Lego bricks. 

“The body has the blueprints, the little booklet that comes with the Lego kit to build, say, heme, a component of hemaglobin. But there is a piece missing. We deliver that piece of Lego that is necessary to build heme,” he said. 

Comet’s tech can deliver the right precursors to build the metabolites it’s interested in, giving it broad applications. 

“If you think about it, almost every disease is the result of something that there is too much of or too little of. What we are doing is providing metabolic switches that can push the body to have less of something it has too much of and vice versa,” De Graaf said. 

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“This is a very different approach than what other people are taking. Generally, drugs are made to stop horrible things from happening. We are actually replenishing things that are missing, which means that very often, we can work together with the standard of care, with current therapies,” De Graaf said. “That way, we can help in a variety of diseases where drugs don’t do everything you want them to do.” 

Though Comet isn’t ready to announce which diseases it’s zeroing in on, it sees a wide range of possibilities for its approach, from metabolic diseases to neurological and immunological disorders. 

“The initial interest is in neurometabolic or neurodegenerative disease because there are few drugs that can help replenish CoA species,” De Graaf said. “They are called neurodegenerative because they are breaking certain things down. We know we can build those things and we know our compounds can get into the brain, so you will probably see a focus on neurometabolic disease first.” 

With series A cash in tow, De Graaf is preparing for a busy three years. First up, Comet will spend the rest of this year building out its platform and “enabling our unique IP position to where we are able to really move forward all by ourselves.” 

In 2020, it will start nominating compounds to take forward and publicly identify which disease areas it wants to go after. And in 2021, the company expects to file an IND and get it approved, De Graaf said. 

“We are looking at partnering in indications that we are unlikely to be able to develop ourselves. We are looking very early at potential partnering opportunities with not only pharma, but also novel ways of engaging academics to work on particular areas together so we make maximal use of the intellectual capital, not only the financial capital.” 

Comet drew its series A from Canaan Partners, BioInnovation Capital, INKEF Capital and Sofinnova Partners.