Deerfield unveils Civetta with $53M to tackle propeller proteins in cancer

molecule
Beta-propeller proteins look just like their name suggests: they are made of several blade-shaped sheets of polypeptide chains arranged around a central axis. They “mediate protein-protein interactions of unique substrates,” Civetta says. (UCSF)

Civetta Therapeutics is launching with tech from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as well as $53 million to develop drugs targeting beta-propeller proteins. Naturally, the company’s first focus will be cancer, but the approach could be useful in other areas, such as neurodegenerative disease. 

With the series A funding, Civetta will build its research team, validate its technology and push its lead programs forward, according to a statement. It will also use the cash to find a permanent home. Seeded by Deerfield—which also stumped up the series A round—Civetta has been working out of Ipsen’s biotech accelerator in Kendall Square. 

Beta-propeller proteins look just like their name suggests: they are made of several blade-shaped sheets of polypeptide chains arranged around a central axis. They “mediate protein-protein interactions of unique substrates,” the company says. 

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“Civetta’s vision is to develop a broad range of expertise in drugging the propeller domains, spanning from biochemistry to biology to medicinal chemistry. These efforts could lead to both the creation of nearer-term therapeutics and longer-term value in becoming a leader in this space,” said Civetta co-founder Eric Fischer, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and an independent investigator at Dana-Farber. 

The approach could be used in various diseases as the propeller proteins are found “ubiquitously across cell types.” They play “diverse” roles in the development of diseases such as neurodegeneration and metabolic disorders in addition to cancer, the company said. 

“While the initial focus will be in oncology, other disease areas will be targeted as well. Similar to the synergies that have benefited kinase drug discovery, it is envisioned that the insights gained through our platform could potentially be leveraged to apply more broadly to many propeller targets,” said Civetta co-founder William Sellers, M.D., a professor at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School and a core member of the Broad Institute. 

Civetta is led by interim CEO Bruce Goldsmith, Ph.D., a venture partner at Deerfield who was previously chief operating officer at cancer biotech Lycera.

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