Quench Bio’s short journey has come to an end after the biotech startup found that its target was simply undruggable.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech had focused on blocking the gasdermin D protein with oral inhibitors to treat inflammatory diseases and had attempted to seek out a potent, selective chemical series to progress by the first quarter of 2021.
It has not, however, managed to hit that goal, and, with credit to the company, it is not trying to spin out this failure, but says it now simply recommends “to wind down and return capital to investors.” It raised $50 million last year from the likes of RA Capital, AbbVie Ventures, Atlas Venture and Arix Bioscience, and was a 2020 Fierce 15 winner.
“Today we are announcing a wind down of Quench Bio,” the company announced in a Twitter thread Tuesday morning. “Unfortunately, our drug target proved undruggable to our efforts. We view it as a 'successful failure.'”
Quench says not all is in vain: The biotech held an auction that was won by an as-yet anonymous buyer to “access our know-how, hopefully to help eventually drive a program toward patients. As a result, a substantial donation will be made to Life Science Cares Boston.”
The team said it's “humbled and proud […] the winning bid is far higher than expected. We wish you the best with this challenging target.”
Gasdermin D is relatively new science; its role in inflammation was first described in two Nature papers in 2015, the first study of its X-ray crystal structure was only published in 2019 and the exact mechanisms of this protein are still being elucidated.
The company had an experienced team for its endeavor, with CEO Samantha Truex previously holding business leadership roles at Biogen and Genzyme before becoming chief business officer of Padlock Therapeutics, a 2015 Fierce 15 winner with a protein-arginine deiminases approach at tackling autoimmune diseases that attracted Bristol Myers Squibb in a $600 million buyout in 2016.
The company’s first two employees, Chief Technology Officer Mark Tebbe and Senior Director of Biology Mike Nolan, Ph.D., had Big Pharma experience at Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline, respectively. Chief Scientific Officer Iain Kilty, Ph.D., was previously vice president overseeing immunology and inflammation early research at Pfizer, and he later lured ex-Pfizer colleague and immunologist Wei Li, M.D., Ph.D., to run Quench’s labs.
Don't be surpised if they turn up somewhere else.