Ribon Therapeutics gains Novartis, J&J backing for monoPARP work

Micrograph of small cell lung cancer
Ribon Therapeutics says an early target will be a certain form of lung cancer. (Michael Bonert CC BY-SA 3.0)

The once highly secretive Ribon Therapeutics has come out with a chunky series B with a focus on monoPARPs against cancer, inflammatory disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

The $65 million boost comes from some big names in the biopharma venture world and includes the Novartis Venture Fund alongside Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Celgene (soon to be Bristol-Myers Squibb) and others.

This will be put toward work for its leading early-stage programs and getting them into clinical testing, which include small molecule monoPARP inhibitors.

MonoPARPs, the biotech explains, are: “Key regulators of stress responses that enable cancer cells to survive and also evade immune detection, and emerging science has linked their activity with disease development.”

PolyPARPs modify their protein targets with large branched polymers called poly(ADP-ribose) or PAR. This large and highly charged attachment creates a protein recruitment scaffold that directs proteins to function at specific sites within the cell.

MonoPARPs, meanwhile, modify their targets with single units of ADP-ribose called mono(ADP-ribose), or MAR, that modulate signal transduction pathways similarly to kinase phosphorylation.

Ribon has built up a tech platform to “interrogate monoPARPs” with an eye to developing first-in-class, small molecule therapeutics.

The company says its early work will be on cancer, but believes it can also target inflammatory diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

Its lead program is focused on so-called PARP7 inhibitors and will begin by challenging squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, one of the toughest cancer targets to treat. This is a next-gen version of the PARPs currently on the market from the likes of AstraZeneca.

“We are delighted to have the support of such a distinguished group of investors who share our commitment to bringing novel therapies to cancer patients and excitement for the therapeutic potential of modulating cellular stress responses,” said Victoria Richon, Ph.D., CEO of Ribon Therapeutics.

“Leveraging landmark discoveries made by our scientific founders, which ushered in a better understanding of the molecular action and biological function of novel enzyme classes beginning with monoPARPs, we are applying our expertise in drug discovery to develop novel and effective treatments for defined patient populations with limited therapeutic options.”

“We have been following Victoria and her team for more than a year and are impressed by Ribon’s tremendous progress and ability to execute,” adds Anja Koenig, head of the Novartis Venture Fund, who will be joining the Ribon board of directors as part of the series B financing along with an investor from JJDC.

“Ribon has developed a novel platform with the flexibility and rigor to investigate and exploit new targets providing the opportunity to build a diverse and attractive pipeline of first-in-class therapeutics.”