Exclusive: MIT's Langer, Farokhzad launch combination-med biotech

Serial biotech entrepreneurs Robert Langer and Omid Farokhzad are joining up with MIT's Dr. Stephen Lippard to launch a new drug developer--Blend Therapeutics--which will concentrate on the development of a pipeline of combination therapies. And they have ambitious plans to redefine the whole field of combination treatments in the process.

Lippard's work at MIT has been heavily concentrated on platinum anticancer therapies. He's been exploring new "nanomolecular constructs" that can extend the lifetime and improve the therapeutic punch of platinum drugs. That platinum class of drugs is just one of the approaches that Blend will use as it crafts a new type of combination therapy, Farokhzad explains to FierceBiotech.

Currently, combination therapies are simply separate drugs which use different pharmacologies to attack a disease. In Blend's case, the company will work to "combine a variety of different drugs together, forcing them together" in a way that makes them work in concert--which is why they dubbed the platform Maestro. And Blend will initially focus on oncology, inflammation, pain and infectious diseases.

MIT's Langer and Harvard's Farokhzad are both familiar faces in the Boston biotech hub, credited with a string of startups that include Bind Biosciences and Selecta Biosciences--both Fierce 15 companies which have attracted sizeable amounts of venture cash. The scientists have contributed insights on nanobio that have inspired scores of drug programs. And they've brought together a distinguished group of colleagues from the science world--which includes Harvard's Ulrich von Andrian--to advise Blend as it builds its new drug discovery platform.

Flagship Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and NanoDimension joined forces to bankroll Blend's Series A.

Blend will be built with a business plan that mirrors the approach used to construct Bind and Selecta, says Farokhzad. Starting with a $2.8 million stake provided by the venture groups, the biotech plans to build a staff of about a dozen people this year, growing to around 20 sometime next year. The founders plan to build its staff methodically, waiting until the biotech is mature enough to attract the attention of a top-tier CEO. And a lean initial budget is intended to help guard against diluting equity while pushing the team to start finding additional sources of non-dilutive cash.

"This is a platform that is very interesting to Big Pharma partners," says Farokhzad. And the plan now is to start working on preclinical pacts as they start to "test the boundaries of the platform."

"We could have done a $16 million Series A," adds Farokhzad.  But it's better to build the infrastructure first, create some value, and then raise additional cash later this year. And while RusNano, which recently invested heavily in Bind and Selecta, has not been approached on Blend, Farokhzad says he wouldn't be in the least surprised to hear from them later.

- here's the press release

Special Reports: BIND Biosciences - 2008 Fierce 15 | Selecta Biosciences - 2011 Fierce 15

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