Spyryx Biosciences raises $18M with a novel take on cystic fibrosis

Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) has made a major difference--and a lot of money--in cystic fibrosis with its targeted treatments, drugs tailored for patients with particular genetic defects. But upstart Spyryx Biosciences believes it may have discovered a way to treat all forms of CF with a single therapy, and the company raised $18 million in Series A cash to advance the idea.

UNC's Robert Tarran

Founded in 2013, Spyryx is fleshing out the work of University of North Carolina professor Robert Tarran, who discovered a link between the regulatory protein SPLUNC1 and the airway dehydration that causes CF's deadly pulmonary symptoms. The body uses SPLUNC1 to modulate how much fluid is absorbed in the airways, and, crafting a peptide therapy that mimics the protein's effects, Spyryx believes it has hit upon a new way to reverse CF's characteristic dehydration.

Targeted therapies like Vertex's Kalydeco and its follow-on products have changed the lives of many CF patients, attacking the root genetic cause of the disease. But such an approach works only on those with particular genetic mutations, amounting to only about 5% of CF sufferers worldwide. That means a one-size-fits-all treatment for the disease's pulmonary symptoms could be immensely valuable, Spyryx figures.

That potential was enough to convince Canaan Partners, Hatteras Venture Partners and 5AM Ventures to pony up for Spyryx's $15 million A round, and now the biotech plans to accelerate its candidate into clinical trials in CF. The drug, an inhaled treatment, also has potential in COPD, Spyryx said, and the company is blueprinting a preclinical program in that indication.

"Currently, there is no cure for CF or COPD," Tarran said in a statement. "We hope that we can use this funding to translate our laboratory findings into treatments for both of these diseases."

John Taylor, a veteran of Synageva BioPharma ($GEVA), is on board as CEO. And, in connection with the financing, Canaan's Tim Shannon, Hatteras' Christy Shaffer and 5AM's Brian Daniels have joined the company's board.

- read the statement