OrbiMed, Peter Thiel back NASH mAb biotech

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has backed a handful of smaller biotechs this year (Dan Taylor/CC BY 2.0)

PayPal founder Peter Thiel and VC OrbiMed’s Israel unit have helped ChemomAb raise $10 million in a series B round.

Thiel, who is said to have also backed stealthy cancer biotech 3T Biosciences as well as the anti-infective startup Peptilogics this year, led the round with Orbimed, with help also coming from SBI Japan-Israel Innovation Fund and Milestone Venture.

This builds on the $5 million the Ramat HaChayal, Tel Aviv-based company raised in its first series A.

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The cash will be put toward its early trial work, which includes its leading experimental drug currently in phase 1 in Israel. A first in class monoclonal antibody, the drug is directed against a key protein in the control of cellular response in a disease state.

The protein was first identified by ChemomAb as “being crucial to the progression of fibrotic as well as inflammatory mechanisms in disease state and in being significantly overexpressed in diseased tissue,” the company said in a statement.

The antibody is set up to hit back at fibrotic (scarring) and inflammatory diseases through a dual mechanism of action that interferes with fibrosis processes directly, as well as dampening down the inflammatory process.

Alongside many other biopharmas, such as Gilead, Shire, Genfit, Bristol-Myers, Intercept and others (with many now in mid- to late-stage testing), its going after nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (a.k.a NASH), which can lead to liver damage via a build-up of fat. The market could be worth tens of billions of dollars for those who can get it right, although tough roads are ahead for treatment and diagnosis.

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A number of other companies are taking the mAb approach, including Tiziana and its work on the formulation of the anti-CD3 mAb, foralumab, in NASH. Gilead also had a mAb NASH hopeful in its LOXL2 inhibitor simtuzumab but pulled the plug just over a year ago when results didn’t go its way.

ChemomAb is also going after “several fibrotic orphan indications in humans,” although is keeping mum on the details. The company has been around since 2011 and has a small staff of just seven, led by CEO Adi Mor.

He said: “The funds raised from leading international ventures represent important recognition of the potential of the product's novelty and effectiveness and its ability to help in the treatment of patients with fibrotic-inflammatory diseases in general, and the treatment of NASH, in particular. Cooperation with leading international funds is of strategic importance in leading the company in the international arena.”