Roche pens neurological, developmental disorder drug discovery pact with Confo  

The Roche Tower
The Roche Tower (Courtesy of Taxiarchos228)

Roche has entered into a neurological and developmental disorder drug discovery pact with Confo Therapeutics. The agreement gives Roche a potential source of small molecule agonists of an undisclosed G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR).

Basel, Switzerland-based Roche will pay up to €6 million ($7 million) in upfront, milestone and research fees over the first 30 months of the collaboration. Beyond that, Roche is on the hook for up to €81.5 million in development, regulatory and commercial milestones, plus tiered royalties, as products spawned by the collaboration advance.

The deal, while relatively small, burnishes Confo’s reputation as a drug discovery shop. Confo broke cover early last year when it disclosed a €6.7 million financing round. The identities of some of the players involved marked Confo as a biotech to watch.   

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Confo’s IP came from institutes including Stanford University and VIB, the Belgian research center that played a big role in the early days of Ablynx. Some of the IP grew out of the work of Toon Laeremans, Ph.D., who played a big role in building Ablynx in its early years before moving to VIB to work on the science that now underpins Confo.

Laeremans now works as head of technology at Confo, where he is joined by two other leaders in the Benelux life science scene. Christel Menet, Ph.D., who oversaw the discovery and early advance of filgotinib at Galapagos, is Confo’s CSO. Cedric Ververken, Ph.D., formerly of Ablynx, is CEO. 

Capricorn Venture Partners came on board as lead investor. V-Bio Ventures, a fund set up by a VC who cut her teeth at Forbion Capital Partners, chipped in cash, too. 

Confirmation that Confo could turn these building blocks into eye-catching research capabilities came in September when Lundbeck offered up to €5 million to work with Confo for two years on two GPCRs.