With the breakout success of cancer immunotherapies, drug companies are understandably excited about targeting the immune system. But in the midst of the immuno-oncology rush, Anthony J. Coyle thinks that autoimmune and inflammatory diseases have been neglected. He’s CEO of newly launched Pandion Therapeutics, which raised $58 million in series A funding to make bispecific antibodies that dial a dysregulated immune system back toward homeostasis.
Designing bispecific antibodies, ones that can latch onto two targets instead of one, is not a new idea, but it is becoming an increasingly popular strategy in the drug development playbook. While the majority of bispecifics in development are for cancer, companies are beginning to explore bispecifics for other diseases as well.
Pandion’s first test case will be inflammatory bowel disease. One half of the bispecific antibody will act as a homing beacon that directs it to tissues specific to the disease. This approach should help prevent the potentially dangerous effects of bodywide immune suppression caused by nonlocalized treatments, Coyle says.
The second half of the bispecific is the effector module, designed to dampen an overactive immune response. “Our approach is to drive down pathogenic cells, while ignoring the ones required for broad surveillance,” Coyle says.
Pandion’s keyword is immunomodulation, not immunosuppression. “I think that has really resonated with many of the investors,” Coyle adds.
Pandion is also working on drugs for autoimmune liver diseases and is interested in type 1 diabetes, kidney disease, and autoimmune diseases of the skin. “The platform and the molecules we are building are very novel and unique, but we are combining it with well-established and well-known biology,” Coyle says. The same immunomodulation strategy could be used to design drugs to prevent rejection of organ transplants.
Pandion’s series A investors include Polaris Partners, Versant Ventures, Roche Venture Fund, and BioInnovation Capital. The firm is currently headquartered in LabCentral, a shared space for over 30 biotech start-ups in the Cambridge, Mass., biotech hub Kendall Square. Notable LabCentral alumni include Fulcrum Therapeutics, Obsidian Therapeutics, and Torque.