LifeArc Ventures invests in Maxion Therapeutics to drive antibody development for previously untreatable ion channel and GPCR-driven diseases

February 15, 2023
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LifeArc Ventures, the investment arm of LifeArc, today announced its participation in a USD $16 million (GBP £13 million) Series A financing for Maxion Therapeutics. The funds will be used to support the development of novel biologics targeting ion channels and G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), via Maxion’s proprietary, patent-protected KnotBody® platform. Ion channels and GPCRs are critical cell surface proteins involved in a wide range of previously untreatable or poorly-treated diseases, including autoimmune conditions and chronic pain

The Series A funding round was led by LifeArc Ventures, including Monograph Capital and BGF as equal participants. As part of the financing Sohaib Mir (Senior Investment Principal at LifeArc Ventures), Tim Funnell (Partner at Monograph Capital), and Lucy Edwardes Jones (Investor at BGF) will join Maxion’s Board of Directors.

Maxion was established by its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. John McCafferty, who co-founded CAT (acquired by AstraZeneca for £700m) and IONTAS (acquired by FairJourney Biologics). At CAT, Dr. McCafferty co-invented antibody phage display, the technology used to discover the world’s best-selling drug, Humira®, and the subject of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Maxion’s Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder is Dr. Aneesh Karatt Vellatt (also co-founder of IONTAS), who along with Dr. McCafferty invented the KnotBody platform.

While multiple small molecule drugs have been developed against ion channels, there are no approved antibody drugs addressing this target class, despite the many advantages of antibodies. Antibodies have the benefit of greater specificity, a superior safety profile, and the ability to engineer their properties using McCafferty’s phage display technology.

The KnotBody platform unlocks the discovery of biologics against ion channels and GPCRs by using naturally occurring cysteine-rich miniproteins called “knottins”, which modulate ion channels and GPCRs but have poor drug-like properties. These are fused onto the surface of antibodies, and the resulting “KnotBodies” combine the functional activity of knottins with the excellent drug properties of antibodies. Maxion’s early R&D efforts have yielded KnotBodies to several therapeutically relevant targets, which will be developed as selective and long-acting first-in-class and best-in-class therapeutics.

“Until now, ion channels have been a blind spot for antibody therapeutics,” said John McCafferty, CEO and co-founder of Maxion Therapeutics. “Our KnotBody technology gives Maxion the opportunity to address this neglected target class and enable improved treatment of diseases driven by ion channels and GPCRs. We look forward to working with our investors to expand our promising pipeline.”

“Maxion’s founders are seeking to build a category-defining business, and LifeArc Ventures is delighted to collaborate with them as they start to build a promising pre-clinical pipeline,” commented Sohaib Mir of LifeArc Ventures. “Led by a highly experienced and scientifically world-renowned team, Maxion has the potential to create novel therapies for the significant proportion of patients who fail to respond to current treatments in a wide range of diseases.”

Lucy Edwardes Jones, investor at BGF, said: “Maxion’s KnotBody technology has significant potential to unlock the discovery of new drugs for challenging disease targets. We look forward to working closely with Maxion’s highly experienced management team and our co-investors to build significant value in the company as a result of this partnership.”

“This funding will allow the Maxion team to demonstrate the broad potential of the KnotBody platform and advance a pipeline of programs for clinical application. This is a novel antibody format and we are excited to support their development,” said Tim Funnell, Partner at Monograph Capital.

About LifeArc

LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity with more than 25 years of translating early science into health care treatment including a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines. Our model is built on collaboration, and through our LifeArc Ventures team, we invest in Seed and Series A stage companies with significant follow-on investment reserved for successful portfolio companies. Our ventures approach focuses on investing in novel translational science and technology with a dual goal of generating financial returns to the charity and positive impact for patients.

Find out more on www.lifearc.org

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