Working against the grain in the popular field of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) by going after biologics rather than small molecules.
CEO: Alise Reicin, M.D.
Based: Boston, Massachusetts
Clinical focus: Running a drug discovery platform dubbed GEODe to find previously unexplored G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and get into the clinic within 24 months.
The scoop: GPCRs are a popular drug target. It’s estimated that as much as a third of all drugs go after these receptors but almost every single one of these approved drugs is a small molecule. Tectonic is attempting to break out of this mold and into biologics with an experienced team that has brought more than a dozen drugs to market.
What makes Tectonic fierce: Tectonic Therapeutic wants to do exactly what its name suggests: make tectonic shifts in GPCR drug discovery. The target plays a role in multiple functions throughout the body, but the group of proteins is still relatively and largely untapped, says CEO Alise Reicin, M.D.
Small molecules dominate the GPCR drug landscape, but they can lack specificity, which can lead to toxicity. Sometimes the small molecules are so small they can’t act as good inhibitors or agonists, Reicin said. The discovery of biologics that work against GPCRs has been challenging to date.
Speaking of a lack of specificity, Tectonic has yet to reveal the first diseases it’s going after. The company is “therapeutic area-agnostic” in these early days, Reicin said. The autoimmune space, fibrosis and other indications with high levels of unmet needs and no approved drugs are all on the table, she said.
Reicin, who previously was president of clinical development at Celgene, thinks her team can crack the code and prevail against the challenges using its drug discovery platform dubbed GEODe. While Big Pharma and small biotechs continue looking at GPCRs from the small molecule approach, Tectonic will be one of the few to pursue biologics.
The biotech, founded in 2019, has a team of seasoned science and management veterans with a history of bringing 15 to 20 drugs to market across multiple therapeutic areas, Reicin said.
“Not only is there really deep scientific expertise, but tremendous expertise translating discovery findings into therapies that successfully treat patients,” Reicin said. The team has led the development of such drugs as Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda, Novartis’ Entresto, Regeneron and Sanofi’s Praluent, and Regeneron’s blockbuster asthma drug Dupixent.
That latter expertise was picked up through the hiring of Marcella Ruddy, M.D., as chief medical officer in July. Ruddy managed Dupixent while at Regeneron and also led the immunology and inflammation development pipeline at the pharma.
Ruddy’s know-how is complemented by Peter McNamara, Ph.D., who is head of research at Tectonic and previously led the biotech and biotherapeutics franchise for Novartis’ Genomics Institute.
Rounding out the management team is Chief Operating Officer Christian Cortis, Ph.D., Chief Development Officer Anthony Muslin, M.D., and Chief Business Officer Marc Schwabish, Ph.D.
Cortis held the interim CEO badge until Reicin came into the picture. Before that, he was chief strategy officer at immuno-oncology biotech Agenus. Muslin headed up the diabetes and cardiovascular therapeutic area as a vice president at Sanofi prior to Tectonic and before that was the leader of the cardio and metabolism research team at Novartis. Schwabish previously was a senior vice president of business development at Fusion Pharmaceuticals and prior to that held business development and licensing roles at Bayer and Eisai.
The leadership team is building off the work of scientific co-founders Andrew Kruse, Ph.D., and Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D. Both are professors at Harvard Medical School and are scientists in the membrane protein biochemistry and immunology fields.
Despite what it touts to be a star-studded team, totaling about 20 today and 30 by year’s end, Tectonic still has a long way to go to earn its moniker.
As with most drugs getting to market will take many years, and Tectonic is just getting started. The preclinical biotech hopes to have at least one or two development candidates ready for IND-enabling studies and a couple of molecules in the lead optimization stages within 18 months. That would set Tectonic up for the clinic in 18 to 24 months, Reicin said.
After that, Tectonic aims to make a splash “every year or so” with a new target, she added.
For now, the firm's fully vaccinated workforce is back to masking in its Boston lab because of the Delta variant, but is “right on track with minimal delay,” the CEO said. One study experienced some periodic disruption when the academic center running it was closed down for a month, but all-in-all, the pandemic hasn’t halted the company’s progress, Reicin said.
Investors: Vida Ventures, T.A. Springer, Polaris Partners and EcoR1 Capital.