Flagship Pioneering has revealed yet another pharmaceutical start-up—Ampersand Biomedicines. With $50 million in funding, the newly launched company aims to design programmable, tissue-selective medicines.
Ampersand’s name hints at the two-component construct of its drugs, which involves a localizer and a therapeutic agent. The localizer guides the attached drug to specific tissues in the body. Conceptually, this architecture resembles antibody-drug conjugates, but the elements extend beyond antibodies or cytotoxic agents, says cofounder and CEO Avak Kahvejian, who is also a general partner at Flagship. For example, the therapeutic portion could comprise a protein, a small molecule, or a therapeutic oligonucleotide. “We’re not limited to one format or modality,” he says.
To help design the best localizers, Ampersand identifies and charts the distribution of protein targets throughout the body. Those that are expressed in limited tissues or cells are prime targets for a localizer to recognize and hit. “We’ve come to a point where the molecular resolution and comprehensive data sets mapping the entire human body are now available or possible to acquire,” Kahvejian says. “Using that, we can create a first-of-its-kind address map” of localization targets. “That address map not only needs to know where a target is,” he adds, but equally important is “knowing where something is not, as you want to avoid going to those places that are not relevant to disease.”
The drug platform is generalizable to “virtually any disease,” Kahvejian says. But for now, the preclinical start-up isn’t disclosing any of its disease targets, only that it is looking at a broad range of therapeutic areas.