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Pheon Therapeutics launches for antibody-drug conjugates to treat cancer

Firm says lead program exploits a novel target in multiple solid tumors

by Gina Vitale
September 28, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 35


Bertrand Damour
Credit: Pheon Therapeutics
Bertrand Damour

Pheon Therapeutics launched Sept. 28 with $68 million in financing to develop antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for solid tumors. ADCs typically consist of a cancer-killing drug payload connected by a linker to a monoclonal antibody that targets a specific antigen on tumor cells’ surfaces. Its lead program, for which it expects to submit an Investigational New Drug application to the US Food and Drug administration within 18 months, “exploits a novel target that is highly expressed in a broad range of solid tumors,” the company says in a press release. Pheon plans to disclose the target early next year, says CEO Bertrand Damour.

To create its ADCs, Pheon says it is using both new and clinically known monoclonal antibodies and either using existing linker-payload combinations or attaching the antibodies to drugs from its proprietary payload platform.

Damour is not new to the field; he previously led ADC-focused NBE Therapeutics, which German pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim acquired in 2020 for €1.2 billion. Pheon is cofounded by medicinal chemist David Thurston, who previously cofounded Spirogen in 2000; now owned by AstraZeneca, Spirogen’s payload technology is used in FDA-approved ADC Zynlonta.

Pheon says it will use the $68 million, which it raised in a series A financing round in March, to take its lead program to the clinical proof-of-concept stage and build an ADC pipeline.

Dan Chancellor, of pharmaceutical business intelligence firm Citeline, says in an email that “ADCs are becoming a more common way of designing potent, targeted cancer drugs—the pipeline has doubled since 2016, and pharma companies are signing around 20 licensing deals each year to further develop assets that have been discovered by companies with ADC platforms such as Pheon.”


This story was updated on Sept. 29, 2022, to remove incorrect information about Pheon Therapeutics' proprietary payload platform. That platform does not use pyrrolobenzodiazepine (PBD) dimers.



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