Photys Therapeutics Raises $75M in Series A Funding to Control Disease-causing Proteins - MedCity News

A new drug company emerged on Thursday.

Photoys Therapeutics debuted with a $75 million Series A funding round led by MPM Capital. The Boston-based company was founded last year by Longwood Fund — a venture capital firm that creates and invests in science-based startups — along with Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher Amit Choudhary and A broad institute of MIT and Harvard.

The startup focuses on chimeric phosphorylation-inducing small molecules (PHICS). These are a new class of bifunctional drugs that can target and restore protein phosphorylation—which is one of the most common post-translational protein modifications and is key to regulating most aspects of cellular function.

“{PHICS} can bring together two proteins that normally don’t interact with each other,” Lizzie Ngo, director of the Longwood Fund, said in an interview. “And by doing this, the molecules can cause the degradation of a target protein that is relevant to a given disease.”

Photys’ targeted phosphorylation approach was modeled after research conducted by Choudhary, who serves on the company’s scientific advisory board. This approach allows the startup to discover a new set of protein targets, according to Edward Holson, co-founder and chief scientific officer.

He said that while the pharmaceutical industry has historically been focused on protein degradation, Photys is working to expand the range of modifications that can be applied to protein function. Because of this, the startup claims it has no direct competitors.

“For the past 50 years, pharmaceutical companies have focused primarily on how to turn off kinases,” Holson said. “Now we can use the intrinsic biology of these molecules to control function and turn other things on.” So it’s like a whole other layer. We’re kind of co-opting the function of kinases in a way that humans haven’t been able to do before.

By extending the functionality of PHICS, Photys aims to recruit kinases and induce phosphorylation. It’s important to remember that phosphorylation is a critical post-translational modification that is ubiquitous in the human body and plays a critical role in cellular function, Holson pointed out. Phosphorylation controls many protein functions, such as activation, stabilization, localization, trafficking, degradation and inactivation, he said.

PHICS can target and restore protein phosphorylation to treat a range of diseases, such as cancer, immune, metabolic and rare diseases. Photys’ goal is to develop PHICS-based therapies to treat these diseases, and Holson said the company’s research is “early and promising.”

The Series A funding round included participation from Longwood, Omega Funds, 8VC, Arkin Bio, Mass General Brigham Ventures, MRL Ventures Fund, Merck, Eli Lilly and Heritage Medical Systems.

Photys, which has about 30 employees, will use the funds for further research and development in hopes of generating product candidates soon.

Credit: PeopleImages, Getty Images

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