Morphic raises $80M to test its oral integrin-based drugs

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The series B round was co-led by Omega Funds and Novo Holdings, the parent of Novo Nordisk and the Novozymes. (NCI)

Morphic Therapeutic brought in $80 million to carry its two lead integrin-targeting programs through their clinical proof-of-concept studies, as well as to help move several additional programs into the clinic.

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company is developing oral, small-molecule formulations aimed at the family of common cell-surface receptors linked to inflammation, fibrosis, oncology and cardiometabolic disease. It is planning to launch IND-enabling and clinical studies in 2019.

The series B round was co-led by Omega Funds and Novo Holdings, the parent of Novo Nordisk and the Novozymes bioresearch company. Invus and EcoR1 Capital also joined as new investors, alongside the company’s previous backers returning from a June 2016 series A raise, which included Polaris Partners, Pfizer Venture Investments and AbbVie Biotech Ventures, as well as GlaxoSmithKline’s SR One firm.

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“Over the past two years we have made exceptional progress in establishing what we believe is the world’s only broad-based structure enabled integrin drug discovery platform, leveraging insights from the Springer lab,” said Praveen Tipirneni, president and CEO of Morphic Therapeutic, referring to Harvard Medical School professor, Tim Springer, who first discovered integrins in the 1980s.

Springer’s finding lead to a first generation of injectable biologic therapies, including six approved in multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, plaque psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome and complications during percutaneous coronary interventions.

Historically, companies that developed compounds designed to inhibit integrin activity actually ended up promoting it—the integrin receptor has three different combinations, with one being an agonist—leading to the failure of several oral drug candidates, the company said. Now, scientific founder Springer and the Morphic team think they’ve figured out the chemistry to develop proper antagonists.

With the new investments, Otello Stampacchia, managing director of Omega Funds, and Novo Ventures partner Nilesh Kumar have joined Morphic’s board of directors.

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