Unlike other startups, Anthos set out with deep pockets and a midphase asset from Big Pharma.
CEO: John Glasspool
Based: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Clinical focus: Developing cardiovascular drugs that may otherwise have fallen by the wayside
The scoop: Anthos Therapeutics launched in February with $250 million from private equity giant Blackstone and a midphase heart disease drug from Novartis. Its sizable war chest means it can run the kind of large cardiovascular disease studies that are often beyond the reach of young biotech companies and work on heart disease drugs that may have been cast aside due to development costs.
What makes Anthos fierce: Unlike the traditional biotech startup born out of a lab discovery, Anthos Therapeutics started out with deep pockets and a midphase asset from a Big Pharma. Its first project is an anti-factor XI antibody that Novartis took to the cusp of phase 2.
The drug, dubbed MAA868, fights blood clots by targeting the clotting proteins factor XI and factor XIa. Novartis carried it through preclinical and early-phase development in the belief that blocking those proteins will reduce cardiovascular events without causing the bleeding risks associated with other anticoagulants. The belief rests on evidence that the coagulation factors play a bigger role in thrombosis, or clot formation, than hemostasis, the process in which blood coagulates to prevent and stop bleeding.
The drug emerged from phase 1 with evidence that it could become the first long-term anticoagulant to be given as a monthly injection. Novartis was impressed enough to file to start two 600-patient midphase trials in early 2018, but then withdrew the studies before enrolling any patients.
Enter Anthos, which picked up development of MAA868 and believes the drug can prevent a range of cardiovascular disorders with low or no bleeding risk.
“We are focused on both venous and arterial thrombosis [blood clots] and intend to develop programs in both areas,” the Anthos team told FierceBiotech via email.
Blood clots in the veins and arteries can block blood flow in the extremities, or dislodge and cause problems elsewhere, such as pulmonary embolism, where a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, or stroke, where a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Anthos thinks its long-acting nature gives it a leg up over the current standard of care.
Blood thinners, such as warfarin, are often taken once or twice a day. Patients have plenty of opportunities to miss a dose and if they do, the drugs’ effects can wear off quickly.
“[MAA868’s] pharmacological properties suggest that it can have high adherence given a potential once monthly dosing, and the fact that it is an antibody means that it is likely to be safe and effective in renally/hepatically-impaired patients,” the Anthos team said.
What’s more, MAA868 may also play well alongside other drugs “that can interfere with the action of the other experimental drugs in this area,” they said.
Anthos is led by John Glasspool, who headed Novartis’ cardiovascular and metabolism franchise during his 10-year tenure at the company that ended when he left for Baxter in 2012. Glasspool was then part of the executive team that led Baxalta to its $32 billion buyout by Shire.
It’s still early days for the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech, which is “laser-focused” on getting MAA868 to patients as quickly as it can. But, the company said, it’s keeping an eye out for opportunities where it can “support innovative programs to advance breakthrough cardiovascular products for patients.”
Investor: Blackstone Life Sciences