WALTHAM, Mass., November 18, 2021 – Avilar Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on extracellular protein degradation, today announced a $60 million seed financing from founding investor RA Capital Management. Avilar is creating a novel class of protein degrader therapeutics designed to target disease-causing extracellular proteins, extending the reach of protein degradation beyond initial degraders that target intracellular proteins.
Avilar has built a proprietary technology platform to develop novel extracellular protein degraders called ATACs, or ASGPR Targeting Chimeras. ATACs harness a natural process through which endogenous proteins are internalized into hepatocytes via the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) and degraded. Designed as bi-functional molecules, ATACs comprise a ligand that binds to a target protein, conjugated to a second ligand that binds to ASGPR. ATACs work by binding to and shuttling disease-causing proteins from circulation to the hepatocyte endolysosome, where the unwanted proteins are degraded.
“We believe the universe of extracellular proteins represents the next frontier in protein degradation and we are excited to launch Avilar as a pioneer company in this new space,” said Daniel Grau, CEO and President of Avilar Therapeutics. “Avilar has demonstrated in vivo proof-of-concept of ATAC-mediated protein degradation in both rodent and nonhuman primate studies, and we look forward to advancing ATACs as novel medicines to degrade proteins involved in the pathogenesis of a wide range of human diseases.”
Proceeds from the $60 million financing have been allocated to developing Avilar’s ATAC degrader platform and to systematically applying this platform to create a pipeline of ATAC therapeutics.
“RA Capital has deep experience in the protein degradation field based on our investments to date in intracellular degradation companies such as Arvinas, C4 Therapeutics, Frontier Medicines, and Vividion. We are thrilled to now launch Avilar to go beyond intracellular degradation and establish a leading position in the extracellular protein degradation field,” said Josh Resnick, M.D., Managing Director at RA Capital and a member of the Avilar Board of Directors.
Proprietary ATAC Technology Platform for Extracellular Protein Degradation
Avilar’s proprietary technology platform enables the modular design and synthesis of ATACs to target diverse extracellular proteins. Key components of the ATAC technology platform include:
- Novel ASGPR Chemistries: Avilar has deployed an X-ray structure guided approach to discover a library of small molecule, high-affinity ASGPR ligands that offer monovalent functionality and superior properties.
- Modular Assembly: Avilar’s optimized small molecule ASGPR ligands are modular and can be efficiently incorporated into ATACs with different protein binders to target a wide range of disease-causing extracellular proteins.
- Extracellular Degradation Modeling: Avilar has developed specialized mathematical modeling tools to integrate and simulate the unique biophysical, pharmacokinetic, and pharmacodynamic characteristics of ATAC-mediated endocytosis and degradation.
- Proteome Mapping: Avilar has created a protein informatics system that extensively catalogues extracellular protein information to enable advanced insights for target selection, protein binder design, and ATAC therapeutic development.
Avilar is leveraging this technology platform to target disease-causing extracellular proteins that are either inadequately addressed or previously undruggable using current drug modalities.
Experienced Avilar Team of Biopharma Business and Science Leaders
“Avilar is well positioned with an exceptional team of biopharmaceutical executives and scientific leaders with the skills and experience to build a rich pipeline of first-in-class ATAC degraders. We look forward to working with the Avilar team to build a world-class extracellular degradation company,” said Tess Cameron, Principal at RA Capital and member of the Avilar Board of Directors.
The Avilar team of seasoned biopharmaceutical executives and leading scientists includes:
- Daniel Grau, MPhil, CEO and President (Sojournix, Heptares)
- Effie Tozzo, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (Cellarity, Mitobridge/Astellas, Merck, Roche)
- Phil Graham, PhD, Chief Development Officer (Sojournix, Concert, EPIX, Lilly)
- Jason Wiles, PhD, VP Preclinical Development (Alexion, Achillion)
- Kevin Lumb, PhD, VP Biology (Janssen, Bayer, Merck)
The Avilar Board of Directors includes:
- Milind Deshpande, PhD, Chairman (Achillion, BMS, Spero)
- Daniel Grau, MPhil, CEO and President (Sojournix, Heptares)
- Josh Resnick, MD, Board Director (RA Capital)
- Tess Cameron, Board Director (RA Capital)
- Marty Freed, MD, Board Director (Dicerna, Solid, GSK)
Avilar was founded at RA Capital by an experienced team of drug hunters, including Milind Deshpande, PhD (Venture Partner), Jesse Chen, PhD (Entrepreneur in Residence), Nathaniel Horwitz, and Jamie Kasuboski, PhD, supported by a team of leading chemists and experts in lysosomal biology.
About Avilar Therapeutics
Avilar Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company pioneering the discovery and development of extracellular protein degraders, a new frontier in targeted protein degradation. Avilar develops ATACs (ASGPR Targeting Chimeras), a new class of protein degrader therapeutics that shuttle disease-causing proteins from circulation to the endolysosome where the unwanted proteins are degraded. Avilar has built a proprietary ATAC platform that includes novel, high-affinity, small molecule ASGPR ligands and advanced modeling of the biophysics, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of ATAC-mediated endocytosis and degradation. The ATAC platform enables the modular design and synthesis of ATACs extendable across the extracellular proteome to a wide range of proteins involved in the pathogenesis of human diseases. Avilar is leveraging the ATAC platform to create a broad and diverse pipeline of first-inclass extracellular protein degraders. Avilar was founded and financed by RA Capital Management and based in Waltham, MA. For more information, please visit www.avilar-tx.com.
About RA Capital Management
RA Capital Management is a multi-stage investment manager dedicated to evidence-based investing in public and private healthcare and life science companies that are developing drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics. The flexibility of its strategy allows RA Capital to provide seed funding to startups and to lead private, IPO, and follow-on financings for its portfolio companies, allowing management teams to drive value creation from inception through commercialization. For more information, please visit www.racap.com.