ICR and Cancer Research UK spinout company Monte Rosa Therapeutics launches with library of anti-cancer compounds
A company formed as a spinout from Cancer Research UK-funded science at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has been publicly launched – revealing $32.5m in funding and a library of innovative anti-cancer compounds.
Monte Rosa Therapeutics – formed by Versant Ventures, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and Cancer Research UK – aims to target cancer using new drugs that take advantage of a cutting-edge concept in drug discovery called protein degradation.
This involves co-opting ubiquitin ligases – large cellular proteins involved in the natural degradation of cell products – to destroy cancer-causing proteins that cannot be targeted by current drug types.
Monte Rosa has secured an initial $32.5m of funding from its founding investor Versant Ventures, a healthcare venture capital firm, and New Enterprise Associates.
It will soon launch another round of financing to raise funds to run clinical studies of some of its leading drug candidates.
Now based in Boston in the US, the company was formed in 2018 with the involvement of Cancer Research UK-funded ICR scientists Professor Ian Collins, the ICR’s Head of Chemistry, and Professor Raj Chopra, formerly the ICR’s Head of Cancer Therapeutics.
Monte Rosa Therapeutics has built an integrated drug discovery platform that combines one of the most diverse chemical libraries of small-molecule protein degraders with in-house proteomics and structural biology capabilities.
The small molecules act as ‘molecular glue’ – sticking together ubiquitin ligases with other protein targets.
By the end of 2020, Monte Rosa Therapeutics expects the chemical library to grow to more than 10,000 structures designed for ubiquitin ligase reprogramming.
One of the company’s leading small-molecule compounds, known as MRT-048, was discovered by chemists in the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR, who also created the initial library of protein degraders.
Further research at the ICR as part of an ongoing collaboration between Monte Rosa, the ICR and Cancer Research UK has shown the potential of MRT-048 as a new breast cancer treatment.
Cancer Research UK and the ICR are eligible to receive milestones and royalties on future products discovered or developed under the collaboration between Monte Rosa, the ICR and Cancer Research UK. Any payments made to Cancer Research UK and the ICR will be invested into future lifesaving research.
Targeted protein degradation is one of the most exciting new fields to emerge in drug discovery in recent years.
It was inspired by studies of immunomodulatory drugs from the thalidomide family, which were found to work via a ubiquitin ligase called cereblon, and are still in use today as a treatment for some types of blood cancers.
Studies of thalidomide revealed the potential of ubiquitin ligases, also known as E3 ubiquitin ligases, to be reprogrammed to act against previously undruggable proteins that drive disease.
Professor Ian Collins, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, a scientific founder of Monte Rosa Therapeutics, said:
“We’re delighted to see the public announcement of Monte Rosa Therapeutics, originally a spinout company based on research led by scientists here at the ICR.
“We’re proud of our world-leading work in partnership with industry, which is leading to the discovery of innovative new compounds like MRT-048 that work in new ways, and emerge from really exciting, collaborative science.”
Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer for Cancer Research UK, said:
“We’re delighted to have worked with Versant and world-class Cancer Research UK-funded scientists to help establish Monte Rosa, and it’s fantastic to see that Monte Rosa has attracted the support of leading venture capital firms to take it to the next stage. We’re pleased to be collaborating with Monte Rosa, where we will be using cutting-edge research to accelerate the development of potential new treatments for cancer patients.”
Markus Warmuth, MD, CEO of Monte Rosa Therapeutics and a venture partner at Versant Ventures, said:
“With our improved understanding of the broad potential of cereblon and other ubiquitin ligases, there is now an opportunity to eliminate major – and currently undruggable – drivers of solid tumors such as transcription factors and adaptor proteins.”
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Scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are working every day to make a real impact on cancer patients' lives. Through its unique partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and 'bench-to-bedside' approach, the ICR is able to create and deliver results in a way that other institutions cannot. Together the two organisations are rated in the top four centres for cancer research and treatment globally.
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About Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships Team
Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Our specialist Commercial Partnerships Team works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. The team develop promising ideas into successful cancer therapeutics, software, devices, diagnostics and enabling technologies. This helps to accelerate progress in exciting new discoveries in cancer research and bring new treatments to patients sooner.
Cancer Research UK’s commercial activity operates through Cancer Research Technology Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK. It is the legal entity which pursues drug discovery research in themed alliance partnerships and delivers varied commercial partnering arrangements.
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About Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing small molecules to degrade disease-related proteins. The company has developed a platform to rationally design small molecules that reprogram ubiquitin ligases to eliminate disease drivers previously deemed undruggable. Monte Rosa was launched from founding investor Versant Ventures’ Ridgeline Discovery Engine based in the Basel Technology Park.
About Versant Ventures
Versant Ventures is a leading healthcare venture capital firm committed to helping exceptional entrepreneurs build the next generation of great companies. The firm’s emphasis is on biotechnology companies that are discovering and developing novel therapeutics. With $3.2 billion under management and offices in the U.S., Canada and Europe, Versant has built a team with deep investment, operating and R&D expertise that enables a hands-on approach to company building. Since the firm’s founding in 1999, more than 75 Versant companies have achieved successful acquisitions or IPOs. Versant is currently investing out of its seventh fund, Versant Venture Capital VII, a $600 million global biotech fund closed in December 2018. In parallel the firm co-invests out of its Canadian strategic fund Versant Voyageurs I and its later-stage biotech opportunity fund Versant Vantage I. For more information, please visit www.versantventures.com.
About New Enterprise Associates
New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA) is a global venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build transformational businesses across multiple stages, sectors and geographies. With nearly $24 billion in cumulative committed capital since the firm’s founding in 1977, NEA invests in technology and healthcare companies at all stages in a company’s lifecycle, from seed stage through IPO. The firm's long track record of successful investing includes more than 230 portfolio company IPOs and more than 390 mergers and acquisitions. www.nea.com.
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