ALLOX, a techbio company developing a proprietary technology to design new drugs targeting allosteric sites within oncology and other diseases, announces its incorporation today, as well as the successful closing of an undisclosed pre-seed financing from Asabys’ new fund Sabadell Asabys II.
ALLOX is a spin-off from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, and is co-founded by Ben Lehner, Júlia Domingo, Pablo Baeza and Andre Faure. The company, with lab and office at the CRG/PRBB, has a unique systematic and scalable platform which can map allosteric sites in a large amount of proteins, including ‘undruggable’ or hard-to-target therapeutic targets.
Proteins are the effectors of molecular life. They interact with each other and the disruption of these interactions (so-called active sites) has been the main way of developing many of the current drugs on the market. Since nature is smart and highly resource-efficient, often these active sites are conserved in several proteins, which represents a drawback when you are trying to target a particular one. Often, targeting these interactions can have both a therapeutic and toxic effect, the main reason why many drugs never reach patients. Lately, the search of selectivity has been fruitful thanks to the development of allosteric modulators. The term allostery means “other sites”. Allosteric sites are protein pockets, in which a molecule can bind, affecting the protein shape and indirectly blocking the protein-protein interactions that need to be targeted. Allosteric sites, in comparison with active ones, are often non-conserved and specific to each protein, so ensuring selectivity and safety. A holy grail for drug developers.
Yet, protein allosteric sites can be tough to find, and often very costly and time demanding. Many approaches have been developed computationally, very few experimentally, and almost none combining both experimental and computational ones, as ALLOX.
The ALLOX platform is based on ‘multidimensional mutagenesis’, an experimental method that allows measuring the activity of as many as 1 million mutant versions of a protein in a single experiment. The method is able to directly link genetic changes to phenotypical and finally biophysical measurements, which is something unprecedented. It is a tool for picking a needle in a haystack. This method allows to scan through, at the protein sequence level, and identify new allosteric pockets. Differently from other methodology, it is scalable, quick and cost efficient.
This financing by Sabadell Asabys will allow ALLOX to establish the initial team and facilities and to reach the level of validation and data that should trigger a new financial round in 18 to 24 months from now.
Asabys has successfully backed several other spin-offs and early-stage companies such as Ona Therapeutics, Origo Biopharma, SpliceBio, Inbrain Neuroelectronics, Nuage Therapeutics and OrikineBio.
Júlia Domingo, co-founder and CEO of ALLOX, comments: “A large portion of the therapeutic space is currently considered undruggable. Overcoming this challenge requires creating innovative and more intelligent therapeutics. ALLOX was founded with this mission in mind, convinced that the integration of massive high-throughput screening with AI will accelerate and revolutionise drug discovery. We feel fortunate and proud to embark on this exciting journey with Asabys.”
Ben Lehner, co-founder of ALLOX, adds: “I’m really happy that we have been able to found this company in Barcelona, the city in which this technology was developed. When we started this project it was pure blue skies research with no application. It was only much later that we realised the potential for drug development. It’s really exciting to see real world applications of our research. It’s also really interesting that there are now seven spin-out companies form the CRG and all seven of them have their foundations in basic non-translational research in genomics and computational biology. This blue skies research on foundational problems is where real innovation and new technology comes from.”
Clara Campàs, Managing Partner at Asabys, mentions “ALLOX’s outstanding technology and team have the potential to revolutionize the way we design and discover new and better medicines. We look forward to continuing working side by side with the founders to bring such innovation to patients”.
ALLOX is a spin-off of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and draws on the expertise and technology developed in the lab of Ben Lehner. The company was born out of the realisation that combining systematic mutagenesis, high-throughput phenotyping and biophysical modelling has the potential to revolutionise drug development but also transform biotechnology in general. The company is currently incubating in the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), and its immediate goal is to identify allosteric switches in all proteins and then leverage this unprecedented resource to rapidly develop novel medicines to treat human diseases. The long-term vision of ALLOX is to become a leader in programmable biology, building the next generation of tools to predict, design and engineer new protein functions.
About Asabys Partners
Asabys Partners is a venture capital firm specialized in the healthcare sector, founded in 2018 by Josep Ll. Sanfeliu and Clara Campàs, participated by Alantra and with the support of Banc Sabadell as anchor investor. With close to €217 million in AUM and 16 portfolio companies (+1 exit), Asabys invests in highly innovative and disruptive companies covering unmet medical needs in the biopharma and healthtech verticals. The firm’s investment in the company comes from its vehicles Sabadell Asabys Health Innovation Investments II, FCR and Sabadell Asabys Health Innovation Investments 2B, SCR SA. www.asabys.com
About the CRG
The CRG is a biomedical research centre located in Barcelona. Created in December 2000, the CRG is home to an interdisciplinary research team of more than four hundred scientists focused on understanding the complexity of life, from the genome to the cell and a complete organism. The CRG is a research center with a unique research model, focused on recruiting internationally-recognised leaders in the field. The CRG is a member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) and is a CERCA centre, part of the research ecosystem of the Generalitat de Catalunya.