It teamed up with US venture capital group Atlas Venture to create pre-clinical stage firm Quench Bio, which is working on the first anti-inflammatory and autoimmune drugs targeting a protein called Gasdermin D.
“This is at the cutting edge of contemporary drug development and a field of significant commercial interest by big pharma,” Arix said in a press release.
Arix and Atlas started Quench along with co-founders Mark Tebbe, its chief technology officer, and Mike Nolan, head of biology, together with Arturo Zychlinsky and Herbert Waldmann, both directors at The Max Planck Society.
It has married this technical expertise with an experienced leadership team, headed up by Samantha Truex, the former chief business officer of Padlock Therapeutics. Padlock was bought by Bristol Myers Squibb in 2016 in a deal worth up to US$600mln.
If the scientific and commercial building blocks are impressive, then so too are the notable backers of the Series A round.
Healthcare investor RA Capital helped lead the financing, while AbbVie Ventures, the strategic venture capital arm of the drugs giant of the same name, brings with it the industry heft.
AbbVie is the world leader in the inflammation space and owner of arthritis treatment Humira, the world’s biggest-selling drug.
Adam Houghton, head of AbbVie Ventures, and Josh Resnick, RA’s managing director, will join the board, alongside Arix’s investment director, Jonathan Tobin, and Atlas’ Bruce Booth.
“We are excited and privileged to work alongside such a distinguished team of entrepreneurs and co-investors to develop first-in-class medicines that could make a major difference to patients suffering from chronic inflammatory and auto-immune diseases,” said Jonathan Tobin.
In a podcast accompanying the announcement, the Arix investment director said targeting and inhibiting Gasdermin D in the way pioneered by Quench was a “completely new method of treating inflammatory disease”.
“It’s in an area the industry is extremely excited about,” he added.
Early-stage targets include lupus, vasculitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic auto-immune diseases “where treatment options are limited”, said Tobin.
He added that the targets under development were at a “very early stage”. “[It is] pre-clinical, but we have an experienced team from industry that are pushing it forward to get a molecule we can test in humans.”