Renamed Anchor in talks for $30M round, new pact

The fledgling Cambridge, MA-based Ascent Therapeutics is opening up a new chapter in the company's development. It's changing its name, focusing on late-stage discussions for a new licensing pact with a ‘Top 5' pharma company and pushing for a $30 million Series B that it hopes to complete by the middle of this year. CEO Frederick Jones says the company is switching its name to Anchor Therapeutics, which he expects will help signify solidity--as well as proving to be a little more Google-friendly in the biotech world than Ascent.

"With the Series A over the last 18 months, we've really built this platform," Jones tells FierceBiotech, adding that now it's time to "take the next step and become a development company. We have a couple of projects that are moving along right now in the discovery phase. We're going to pick out a preclinical candidate by the end of April."

Anchor already has an ambitious partnership underway with the Novartis Option Fund and expects to be able to announce another pact for its pepducin technology in the next few months. A third deal could arrive later in the year, says Jones. Anchor is developing pepducin lipopeptides that anchor in the cell membrane and target the GPCR protein, expanding on the number of GPCR drug targets and tackling particularly hard targets. It's those hard targets that interest Big Pharma companies the most.

"We would hope to have an IND submitted in the third quarter of next year, Phase I would take a year or so" with a mid-stage proof-of-concept study landing in the third quarter of 2012, adds Jones. Healthcare Ventures, the Novartis Option Fund and TVM Capital participated in the Series A round. The Novartis Option Fund struck a $200 million licensing deal for a specific GPCR target.

- here's the Ascent press release on the name change