SmartZyme spins off protein tech company for a metabolic disease partnership with Hemoshear

Handshake business deal executives
Carnot includes a team of former Synageva and Alexion colleagues, the companies said. (Pixabay)

SmartZyme BioPharma is spinning off its protein-based therapeutic platform into a new company—dubbed Carnot BioSciences—as part of a collaboration with Hemoshear Therapeutics aimed at rare metabolic diseases.

Carnot hopes to develop treatments for a list of undisclosed enzyme targets, chosen by HemoShear, including for diseases caused by inborn deficiencies and mutations. The two will work together in drug discovery, while each will be responsible for moving specific programs into the clinic. Financial terms were not disclosed.

SmartZyme’s general manager and chief executive, Christopher Shepard, Ph.D., will serve as Carnot’s interim CEO, while former SmartZyme consultant Mark Leavitt, Ph.D., will serve as chief scientific officer.

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Leavitt was previously VP of expression and bioanalytics at Synageva BioPharma and executive director of research at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which acquired the former through an $8.4 billion deal in 2015.

“Carnot and HemoShear possess unique and complementary scientific expertise that together are a powerful combination to discover promising new drug candidates for devastating and life threatening metabolic diseases,” Leavitt said. “There is a significant unmet need for better treatment options and we look forward to advancing drug candidates into human clinical trials.”

Leavitt will work with a team of former Synageva and Alexion colleagues with experience in clinical development, regulatory affairs and market access, who are currently members of Hemoshear's R&D advisory board, the companies said in a statement.

Carnot's half-dozen scientists and managers in basic and translational research will be split between Boston and an R&D center in Israel, Shepard told FierceBiotech, with the goal of generating lead candidates before the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, SmartZyme will continue on with its core diabetes asset: a glucose-sensing enzyme designed to make continuous monitoring systems more affordable and easier to manufacture by doing away with signal mediators.

“Carnot BioSciences’ protein engineering technology is a valuable platform for developing novel protein-based therapeutics,” said Brian Wamhoff, Ph.D., co-founder and head of innovation at HemoShear, which currently is running drug discovery programs focused on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis as well as rare genetic metabolic disorders, including propionic and methylmalonic acidemias.

“Our research has shown that modifications to specific enzymes may improve the body’s ability to reduce toxins associated with a number of devastating diseases,” Wamhoff said. “We believe that application of Carnot’s directed evolution to generate these novel therapies can ultimately yield far better outcomes for patients.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from Carnot.