LEEDS, UK—LUNAC Therapeutics, a new UK-based drug discovery company, has announced that the company, along with the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the University of Leeds, has been awarded £3.14M in funding under Innovate UK’s Biomedical Catalyst program. The funding will be used to develop an innovative anticoagulant treatment with minimal bleeding risk, to better meet patient need.
“New anticoagulant treatments are desperately needed,” said Professor Helen Philippou, scientific founder of LUNAC Therapeutics. “LUNAC’s research has shown that targeting activated Factor XII has the potential to offer a new treatment option for patients, and we are therefore delighted to have secured Biomedical Catalyst funding to help drive this exciting project forward.”
The 18-month preclinical drug discovery project brings together target biology, disease understanding and chemistry expertise at LUNAC and the University of Leeds. The Medicines Discovery Catapult will contribute drug discovery know-how and preclinical imaging expertise.
“Bringing together deep disease understanding from Leeds and LUNAC with the extensive drug discovery and development experience of the Medicines Discovery Catapult creates an exciting program with the potential to transform the landscape of anticoagulant treatments, and to impact the lives of patients who rely on such treatments in a meaningful way,” noted Dr. Peter Simpson, chief scientific officer of Medicines Discovery Catapult.
The project aims to develop a first-in-class drug to prevent the formation of thrombosis. The organizations will work together to optimize and advance the discovery of a new class of highly specific anticoagulant compounds that block an activated clotting enzyme, Factor XII (FXIIa). There is strong evidence that inhibition of FXIIa won’t increase the risk of bleeding.
Currently available anticoagulants have a relatively narrow margin between beneficial effects and undesirable bleeding events. Adverse effects include bleeding in the brain or gut, which can be fatal in some cases. This novel class of compounds would allow more at-risk patients to be treated, and would enable safe dose escalation in high-risk patients.
“This new collaboration will address the need for anti-clotting therapies with great efficacy and minimal bleeding risk,” added Andy Duley, director of commercialization, University of Leeds. “The differentiation of this approach should eliminate the risk of increased bleeding, marking a step-change in the management of the thrombosis.”
Anticoagulation therapy is used for a wide range of conditions, including prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation and prevention of venous thromboembolism post-surgery. New anticoagulant treatments have the potential to save in excess of £2.7 billion per year in Europe alone, by impacting bleeding and stroke episodes.
This news follows the recent announcement of the spin out of LUNAC from the University of Leeds, with £2.65M of funding raised in the first close of a Series A financing round led by Epidarex Capital and the University of Leeds. LUNAC was founded based on IP generated by Philippou and Dr. Richard Foster, through insights built on a decade of academic research into Factor XII.
“LUNAC is taking a unique approach to the identification of novel anticoagulants, and we have been very impressed by the progress of the Factor XII program at the University of Leeds,” pointed out Dr. Mary Canning of Epidarex Capital in a press release. “This investment builds on Epidarex’s track record of funding innovative spin-outs from leading research universities, both across the UK and in the US.”