Langer-backed biotech reboots with $38M, new name and new cancer drug tech

Robert Langer

Say goodbye to Blend Therapeutics and hello to Tarveda.

The four-year-old biotech, launched with the scientific backing of MIT's Robert Langer and colleagues, is jettisoning its one-time lead drug program and focusing on a new top drug and platform tech with a $38 million C round. And it's taking a new name to help underscore the shift in focus.

The pipeline at Tarveda will concentrate on Pentarins, "miniaturized" biologic drug conjugates designed to get deeper into solid tumors with a toxic payload. Tarveda is prepping its first IND now, with an eye to jumping into the clinic later this year with its first therapy.

The new lead drug is PEN-221, a Pentarin that targets the somatostatin receptor for neuroendocrine cancers, including small cell lung cancer. The company plans to focus on patients who overexpress the somatostatin receptor, looking to define a population most likely to benefit from their therapeutic strategy.

Tarveda CEO Drew Fromkin

"The thought of having smaller biologic drug conjugates has been something that the industry has been thinking about," says Tarveda CEO Drew Fromkin, who took over at Blend last spring. Antibody drug conjugates, which have been a focus for years now, are limited by their relatively large size. The biotech's current R&D team developed new ways to miniaturize them--using a small peptide linked to a potent payload--to expand their reach, pushing past hematologic malignancies and into solid tumors.

Novo A/S and New Enterprise Associates led the round, with help from Flagship Ventures, NanoDimension and Eminent Venture Capital, which helped get the company up and running.

Fromkin says he's in talks to license out the initial lead: BTP-114. That's a platinum drug candidate that has an IND and is ready to go into human testing. Tarveda is spinning that program into a new company of its own, called Placon Therapeutics, which is now up for grabs.