Since it uncloaked two years ago, Pandion has teamed up with Astellas on bispecific drugs for Type 1 diabetes and Therapeutics has pushed its lead program into the clinic. Now, it’s reeling in another $80 million to test that treatment in patients with ulcerative colitis and move a second program into phase 1.
“We’ve still not decided what that program is,” Pandion CEO Rahul Kakkar, M.D., told FierceBiotech. “We really have three programs that are furthest along … They are all undergoing experimentation now to select at least one that would move into IND-enabling studies.”
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Pandion set up shop to create better treatments for autoimmune conditions, in which the immune system “forgets what the self is” and attacks its own tissues and organs. It aims to replace “old-school” systemic immunosuppression—which can lead to side effects like an increased risk of infection or cancer—as well as newer anti-cytokine antibodies, which have improved care for some patients but don’t work for all autoimmune diseases.
Kakkar likens its modular drug design platform to a quiver of arrows, where the company can mix and match arrowheads, or immune effectors that retrain the immune system, with tethers that bind to proteins that are unique to the target organ. Its lead program, PT-101, is a systemically active—that is, not locally active—variant of interleukin-2 (IL-2) that boosts patients’ regulatory T cells, which help the body differentiate between self and non-self.
“Part of the intent of this fundraising was to think about where, in terms of clinical applications, PT-101 would go,” Kakkar said. “This round will, in part, be used to fund our first patient-based trial to start in 2021, in refractory ulcerative colitis.”
Access Biotechnology and Boxer Capital led the $80 million round, joining new investors RA Capital and OrbiMed. And all of Pandion’s backers returned for the series B, including Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Roche Venture Fund, SR 1, JDRF T1D Fund and Mission BioCapital (formerly BioInnovation Capital).
The funds will also bankroll IND-enabling studies for a second program. It will choose from a systemically active PD-1 agonist, a bifunctional PD-1 agonist and a bifunctional IL-2 mutein, Kakkar said. The latter two have the immune effector on one end with a tether on the other to make them tissue selective.
Pandion will also “broaden” its platform, which includes bringing its treatments to other organs in the body, including the skin and kidney. Because autoimmune disease can affect so many organs, Pandion will seek partners to realize the full potential of its approach.
“There is no way for us to cover every organ system in the body as Pandion, so we decided to institute a hybrid business development strategy. We raise funding on our own—which is what we’ve done—to advance certain programs forward, but we will also engage in partnerships so we don’t leave patient groups who could really benefit from our specific engineering and design platform behind,” Kakkar said. “Astellas is certainly part of that strategy. And we have active discussions ongoing with numerous pharma partners about expanding our base and collaborating.”