Mission set to push Parkinson's, cancer drugs into PhI after scooping £60M

Mission Therapeutics is gearing up to move drugs from its Parkinson's disease and immuno-oncology programs into the clinic. The activity is to be fuelled by a £60 million ($88 million) investment, which has given the company the financial firepower to take a pair of programs based on its DUB platform through to Phase I data readouts over the next three to four years.

Mission Therapeutics CEO Anker Lundemose

Cambridge, U.K.-based Mission is planning to pick IND track candidates from two of its programs later this year, setting it up to start the first Phase I trial toward the end of 2017. The work will build upon research Mission has carried out into two targets, USP30 and USP7, both of which are DUBs (deubiquitinating enzymes). Researchers have linked DUBs to inflammation, muscle wasting and infectious disease, but the focus at Mission for now is on two fields: Neurodegeneration, specifically Parkinson's disease, and cancer.

In neurodegeneration, Mission is going after USP30, a DUB that was linked in 2014 to the process through which damaged mitochondria are degraded. The consequences of the malfunctioning of this process, known as mitophagy, can be severe. "[Mitochondria] contain so many reactive oxygen radicals they need to get removed in a process called mitophagy. If that's impaired, you damage the cell," Mission CEO Anker Lundemose told FierceBiotech. "If that happens in the brain, it has irreversible consequences."

Lundemose thinks Mission may be able to interfere with this process to improve health outcomes in Parkinson's disease. The work, while a priority today, wasn't on Mission's radar when it set up shop in 2011, chiefly because research into the role of USP30 in mitophagy was yet to take place. When Mission saw the research, it put its team--which consists of 35 to 40 in-house staffers and 40 to 45 chemists in India and China--to work on establishing itself at the forefront of the field. "We … happen to have good chemistry against this target," he said.

With an additional £60 million in the bank, Mission is set to keep hurtling ahead, moving its internal headcount up toward 50, to maintain its position in a field in which it perceives the competition to be intense. "The pharma industry is pursuing this very aggressively," Lundemose said. In parallel, Mission is pushing ahead in its initial area of focus, cancer, a field in which its CSO and scientific co-founder Steve Jackson has already enjoyed success. Jackson was a founder of KuDOS Pharma, which sold up to AstraZeneca for $210 million and went on to see its cancer drug win approval.

Such credentials have helped Mission attract the royalty of the European VC scene. Imperial Innovations (AIM:IVO) co-lead the £60 million round alongside Neil Woodford's Patient Capital Trust. Sofinnova Partners, Roche ($RHHBY) Venture Fund, GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) SR One and others all chipped in cash, too.

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