Led by former Sanofi, Epizyme and Merck executive Victoria Richon, Entact Bio launched with $81 million Tuesday to advance its protein enhancement platform.
The company will use the platform, dubbed Encompass, to develop enhancement-targeting chimeric (ENTAC) molecules. Rather than targeting proteins that cause or advance disease, Entact’s platform focuses on protecting beneficial proteins that help the body fight disease.
Protein therapeutics are nothing new. A study released by Vision Research Reports five months ago found the protein therapeutics market was valued at $284.5 billion in 2021 and is predicted to surpass $566.82 billion by 2030.
Protein enhancement, however, is less common. One of the better-known protein enhancement therapies is Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ cystic fibrosis treatment Trikafta, which enhances the function of the F508del-CFTR protein at the cell surface.
But unlike Vertex’s therapy, Entact’s platform utilizes deubiquitinases, or DUBs–enzymes that regulate proteins in cells. The company stated ENTACs “bring together beneficial target proteins with DUBs.” The DUBs then shorten or remove chains of ubiquitin attached to the target protein, enhancing its function and restoring the cell back to health.
DUBs can be recruited when there is not enough of the target protein and when it’s in the wrong place in the cell or is not working properly.
David Komander, Ph.D., a professor and head of WEHI’s ubiquitin signaling division, said in the press release that many think of ubiquitin as a “molecule that directs proteins to the cellular garbage bin,” as one of its primary functions is marking proteins for degradation.
“We now know that ubiquitin also has the ability to change protein function, including activation, localization and interaction through exquisite regulation by DUBs and other enzymes,” he added.
The Series A financing was led by Qiming Venture Partners USA and venBio Partners, with participation from Abingworth, Citadel’s Surveyor Capital and 4BIO Capital.
As for which therapeutic areas the company plans to target, Richon told BioSpace, “While we’re not talking publicly about our pipeline yet, in almost every disease, enhancing the function of beneficial proteins could make an impact.”
Richon also explained the company’s goals. In the short term, the team is focused on building a “really effective drug discovery team that’s strong not only in terms of capabilities and background but also in diversity.” And in the long term, the team will continue to advance the Encompass platform.
“Ultimately, our goal is to bring innovative medications forward to help patients who currently have too few options,” Richon said. “These ENTAC medicines will make an important difference for patients whose needs aren’t adequately met by today’s treatments.”