Confo Therapeutics has raised €30 million ($34 million) to take compounds targeting difficult-to-drug GPCRs into clinical development. The series A round (PDF) sets Confo up to advance drugs derived from a novel way of stabilizing GPCRs and performing more sensitive screens.
Belgium-based Confo is built on a platform that uses single-domain antibody fragments like Ablynx’s Nanobodies to stabilize GPCRs in specific conformations. Stabilizing GPCRs enables Confo to screen for agonist activity against the targets, resulting in a platform it thinks is more efficient and sensitive than high-throughput screening and other forms of fragment-based drug discovery.
Researchers at the University of Brussels and Stanford University identified the potential of the approach, leading to the foundation of Confo. Since then, Confo has worked to industrialize the drug discovery platform—increasing throughput—and landed validatory deals with Lundbeck and Roche.
Now, Confo has raised €30 million to advance candidates discovered using its portfolio of screening tools, such as radioligand competition. Confo has programs against three targets in its pipeline, the most advanced of which recently came through its first in vivo study. The series A round will enable Confo to advance the lead program and two others, which are at the hit-to-lead stage.
“The €30 million will allow us to progress our proprietary programs to the clinic. It should get our lead program to phase 1 … and then also continue to feed the pipeline to deliver clinical candidates going forward,” Confo CEO Cedric Ververken said.
BioGeneration Ventures led the round with a notable assist from Wellington Partners. Fund+ and Perceptive Advisors put money into Confo for the first time, while Capricorn Health-Tech Fund, Qbic, Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen, MINTS, V-Bio Ventures and VIB returned having previously helped the biotech get started with seed funding.
The investors’ interest in Confo is testament to both the potential of the biotech’s platform to find new ways to drug a key class of targets and the track record of the team overseeing the effort.
Ververken rose to the rank of vice president of business development at Ablynx during a period in which the Belgian biotech landed a string of Big Pharma partners. The CEO is flanked in the Confo management team by Christel Menet, who was involved in the discovery of filgotinib at Galapagos, and fellow Ablynx veteran Toon Laeremans.