Pfizer launches upstart with $103M, phase 3-ready drugs

In a first for the Big Pharma and as part of a new model, Pfizer is taking drugs from its shelves and licensing them to, while investing in, its SpringWorks Therapeutics startup.

It starts life with a major $103 million series A with help from Bain Capital Life Sciences, Bain Capital Double Impact, Orbimed and LifeArc. Pfizer’s input consists of both equity capital and royalty- and milestone-bearing licenses to a series of experimental meds.

These initially come in the form of four compounds, half of which are already set for Phase 3 trials, including in desmoid tumor using its gamma-secretase inhibitor, which the biotech will study in tandem with the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation.

And it’s also targeting neurofibromatosis in late-stage tests with its MEK 1/2 inhibitor, again with a partner, this time the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

But it won’t remain reliant on Pfizer’s shelves forever, as in the future, the biotech plans to boost its pipeline by partnering with other biopharmas, as well as academic institutions, the Big Pharma says.

The other two earlier-stage compounds are targeting rare blood disorder hereditary xerocytosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Biotech board vet Dan Lynch is executive chairman, while its president and founder is Lara Sullivan, M.D., who joins SpringWorks from Pfizer, where she has been VP of strategy and portfolio solutions, worldwide R&D for the past six years.

In addition, L. Mary Smith, Ph.D., has left her position as product development exec at United Therapeutics, where she helped lead the development and approval of Unituxin for rare childhood cancer high-risk neuroblastoma, to become Springworks' VP of clinical R&D.

“SpringWorks Therapeutics will pursue the development of medicines across therapeutic areas, focused on diseases where there is an urgent need and the potential for the greatest impact for patients,” said Sullivan. “We initially have rights to four very promising experimental therapies and, over time, plan to expand our pipeline by partnering with other life science companies and academic institutions who share in our mission.”

Pfizer has backed biotechs in the past, including more recently taking a stake in Ignite Immunotherapy and its cancer vaccine work, as well as Metabomed, a biotech that is using computational biology to discover cancer metabolism drugs. It has also helped shape Cydan, an orphan disease incubator created by Pfizer’s venture arm with New Enterprise Associates, but the SpringWorks model is a first for the company.

Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA, EVP and CMO at Pfizer, explained: “Pfizer sees SpringWorks Therapeutics as a ground-breaking new model for collaboration to deliver on the promise of medical research and development, so that more people have the potential to overcome disease. We hope that our investment in SpringWorks Therapeutics will, over time, enable us to realize even more value for patients and society.

“SpringWorks Therapeutics started as an idea about a new way to get things done with—and for—patients, it’s been a tremendous team effort, and we and our partners are excited to see it become a reality.”