Australian biotech company launched with AU$7m investment to develop therapies for treating obesity
February 19, 2018
Cincera Therapeutics Pty Ltd (“Cincera”) has launched with an AU$7 million venture capital commitment from the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).
The Company has been founded to develop new therapies to target conditions relating to an unhealthy Western diet, including serious and highly prevalent diseases associated with obesity. The company will initially focus on treatments for the emerging epidemic of a liver disease termed ‘NASH’ (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). Cincera secured its vital venture capital support from the AU$200 million Brandon Capital managed ‘MRCF3’ fund. The MRCF was established in 2007 and promotes the creation of early stage medical technology companies across Australia and New Zealand, with the $200 million MRCF3 fund raised in 2015.
Obesity and Western diets, high in saturated fats and processed carbohydrates, can alter the abundance (in both quantity and quality) of fats in the body. The subsequent accumulation of excessive and ‘toxic’ fats in the peripheral organs can induce inflammation and tissue fibrosis (scarring), which can ultimately compromise function and lead to organ failure. Cincera aims to treat diseases like NASH by reducing the excessive abundance of specific ‘toxic’ fats in the body. The Company is harnessing high-potential research from the Centre for Cancer Biology, an alliance between the University of South Australia and SA Pathology in Adelaide, and Monash University’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) in Melbourne. Founding scientists of Cincera, Associate Professor Bernard Flynn from MIPS, who is also CEO, and Professor Stuart Pitson from the CCB, have been developing novel therapies that modulate an important target involved in a number of diseases.
Medicinal chemist and serial entrepreneur Associate Professor Flynn says, “Cincera is a great example of how partnering great teams and technologies with capital, and the right expertise, can facilitate the translation of Australian medical research.” “In our collaboration with Professor Pitson of CCB and Associate Professor Bing Wang of Monash Clinical Epidemiology, we have brought the science of disease biology and drug-discovery together in a unique and effective manner. Through the rapid assembly of initial research compounds, we were able to identify the most important enzymatic targets that contribute to inflammatory and fibrotic disease – and then develop drug-like lead compounds to specifically intercept these new targets.” “MIPS is taking Australian innovation to the world through the development of novel therapies and we are delighted to have won the support from MRCF to take our innovative new therapies to the next stage,” Professor Flynn says.
Professor Pitson, a world leader in cell signalling and CSO of Cincera, says, “Through collaboration with the team at Monash, we have drug candidates that are potent and broad-acting antiinflammatory and anti-fibrotic agents that show strong potential to become new treatments.” “There are many aspects of the disease that could be improved by these drugs, from treating liver or kidney dysfunction through to possible treatments for certain cancers. Making a difference is what drives researchers at the CCB and forming a company like Cincera will be important for translating our research into better treatments for patients.”
“The Cincera founders have developed a highly differentiated approach to treating inflammation and fibrosis,” says Dr Michael Bettess, Investment Manager at Brandon Capital Partners and Director of Cincera. “When combined with high-quality Australian science and the extensive commercial experience of the team, Cincera became a clear early-stage investment for the MRCF.” “It’s important to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle as diseases like NASH are often associated with poor dietary choices and therefore largely preventable. However, for the many people who do suffer from this serious disorder a drug based treatment is really their only option and needed urgently,” Dr Bettess says.
The MRCF investment will be used by Cincera to show efficacy in disease models and support the ongoing optimisation of compounds o select drug candidates that will be suitable for clinical trials in three to four years.