In silico drug developer Nimbus collects $65M in new funding round

Nimbus' two main development programs, in the discovery and preclinical stages, focus on the tyrosine kinase signaling pathway, the stimulation of interferon genes and their effects against a number of diseases. (Pixabay/Geralt)(Pixabay / Geralt)

Nimbus Therapeutics has reined in $65 million in new capital to fund its virtual drug discovery and development pipeline and expand into new targets in immunology, oncology and metabolic diseases.

Each of the company’s previous investors participated in the funding round, including Atlas Venture, SR One, Lilly Ventures, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lightstone Ventures and Schrödinger, as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had provided Nimbus with part of its initial seed funding in 2011.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Nimbus uses an in silico and computational chemistry platform to build novel small molecules, and boasts discovery partnerships with several big pharma and biotech companies, including Celgene, Gilead, Genentech, Charles River Laboratories and Proteros, as well as Massachusetts General Hospital and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

“Nimbus’ success has built a nine-figure balance sheet of resources for the rapid advancement and expansion of our pipeline and technology, which will allow us to develop several other undisclosed target programs forward to the clinic in the next few years,” said Jeb Keiper, Nimbus’ chief financial officer and chief business officer, in a statement.

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In April 2016, Nimbus’ acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor program was bought by Gilead in a potential $1.2 billion deal. With a $400 million upfront payment, the Big Pharma acquired NDI-010976, being explored in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, with the possible future as a treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma and other diseases.

A few months later, Gilead shelled out a $200 million milestone payment—amounting to half the deal’s total value—after the drug posted positive phase 1 study results in NASH. Since renamed GS-0976, Gilead later released preliminary proof-of-concept data showing the drug blocked new fat deposits in the liver by 29% over 12 weeks.

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Currently, the company’s main programs in tyrosine kinase 2 and the stimulation of interferon genes, or STING, focus on the biological mechanisms that link immunology, oncology and metabolic disease.

Tyk2 signals key pro-inflammatory cytokine receptors, including IL-23, IL-12 and interferons α and β, and is a key target for the treatment of several auto-immune disorders, including lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and others.

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STING agonists, meanwhile, play a role in antitumor immunity, inducing a Type-I interferon response which can help recruit T cells to attack tumor cells, either alone or in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and cell therapies, the company said. STING antagonists may also have therapeutic potential, in diseases such as lupus, where STING drives an exaggerated interferon response.

Both programs are in the discovery or preclinical stages. The work on Tyk2 and STING antagonists are headed up under an immunology alliance with Celgene, while the STING agonist program is wholly owned by Nimbus.