Spyryx Biosciences Inc., a privately-held biopharmaceutical company specializing in development of novel therapeutics for respiratory diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), announced Thursday that it has secured $18 million in Series A venture capital financing from Canaan Partners, Hatteras Venture Partners and 5AM Ventures.
As part of the transaction, Spyryx announced that Tim Shannon, MD, general partner of Canaan, has joined the Board of Directors as Chairman, and that Christy Shaffer, PhD, managing director of Hatteras Discovery at Hatteras, and Brian Daniels, MD, venture partner of 5AM have also taken Board seats.
Also in conjunction with the new funding, Dr. Tim Shannon, has been named chairman of Spyryx’s board of directors.
For more than 15 years, Tim Shannon has worn several hats — as an entrepreneur, a researcher, a professor, and a practicing physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Spyryx will be relying on Dr. Shannon’s operating experience as a Canaan investor since 2009, helping companies grow from university technologies to funded companies. Most recently, Dr. Shannon was startup CEO of ALDEA and Arvinas, and he currently serves on the boards of Aldea Pharmaceuticals, Civitas Therapeutics, CytomX Therapeutics and Novira Therapeutics. He is also a director at Celldex Therapeutics, which acquired CuraGen in October 2009.
Prior to Canaan, Dr. Shannon was president and chief executive officer of CuraGen, a biopharmaceutical company focused on oncology, and with which he had also served as executive vice president of R&D and chief medical officer. He has also held positions of increasing responsibility for Bayer’s Pharmaceutical Business Group including senior vice president of global medical development.
Dr. Shannon was assistant professor of the pulmonary and critical care division at Yale University School of Medicine and an attending physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the West Haven V.A. Medical Center. He received his post graduate medical training at the Beth Israel Hospital of Harvard Medical School and at Boston University, earned his medical degree from the University of Connecticut, and has a B.A. in chemistry from Amherst College.
Also joining the Spyryx board is Dr. Christy Shaffer, Ph.D., managing director of Hatteras Discovery at Hatteras. A seasoned entrepreneur and biotech executive, Dr. Shaffer has over 20 years of experience in the life science industry. Following her career as a clinical scientist, international project leader and Associate Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Burroughs Wellcome Co., she joined Inspire Pharmaceuticals in 1995 as the company’s first full-time employee. She was responsible for raising over $300m for the company, including taking it public in 2000. As President and CEO, Dr. Shaffer grew Inspire Pharmaceuticals from 20 scientists in a lab to nearly 250 employees and revenues of over $100 million. Under her leadership, Inspire was named as Best Place to Work for Scientists by the Scientist magazine, and Best Place to Work in North Carolina. Dr. Shaffer retired from Inspire in March, 2010 and the company was acquired by Merck in 2011.
Dr. Shaffer currently serves as the board chair of two Hatteras portfolio companies: G1 Therapeutics and Clearside Biomedical. A receptor pharmacologist by training, earning her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 1985, she received her post-doctoral training at The Chicago Medical School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Shaffer also played an integral role in the Chancellor’s Innovation Circle to enhance entrepreneurship and innovation across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus (2010 – 2012), and has served on numerous boards, including the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the NC Biotechnology Center, the Biotechnology Institute, BIO, PhRMA and Clinipace Worldwide. She received the Breath of Life Award for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2009 and the Hamner Leadership Award at the NC BIOTECH meeting in 2011. TiE Atlanta awarded Dr. Shaffer the 2013 Venture Capital Entrepreneur Award at the TieCON Southeast conference.
Shaffer also serves on multiple non-profit boards including the Board of Trustees for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), the CFF Therapeutics, Inc. board (chair), the NC School of Science and Mathematics Foundation board (former chair), the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (chair). She is also a member of the Steering Committee for the NC state-wide science festival and the Frank Hawkin Keenans Institutes advisory board.
The third new member added to Spyryx’s board of directors is Dr. Brian Daniels M.D., a venture partner of 5AM ventures.
Prior to joining the company in 2014, Dr. Daniels spent more than two decades in clinical drug development in the industry; the last 10 years as the leader of Development and Medical Affairs at Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Dr. Daniels directed development of an array of innovative medicines that have contributed to improvement in the health of patients across a range of serious diseases. These include: ORENCIA and NULOJIX in immunology/transplant, REYATAZ, DAKLINZA and BARACLUDE in virology, ELIQUIS in thrombosis/atrial fibrillatielson, ONGLYZA and FARXIGA in diabetes, ABILIFY in depression, MYOLEPT in rare diseases, SPRYCEL, OPDIVO, ERBITUX, YERVOY and IXEMPRA in oncology.
Dr. Daniels received a BS and MS from MIT and his MD from Washington University in St. Louis. He trained in internal medicine at New York Hospital and Rheumatology/Immunology at UCSF.
“We are excited to have raised this robust Series A funding and to have gained the support of world-class investment funds such as Canaan, Hatteras and 5AM. The financial strength this money brings to the Company and the significant expertise each of these funds has in pulmonary drug development ideally positions Spyryx to rapidly advance our CF therapeutic into clinical development and to explore the potential for treating COPD,” says John Taylor, President and CEO of Spyryx. “I would like to thank our departing board member, Dr. Don Rose, and his team at UNC’s Carolina KickStart for their efforts in founding and nurturing Spyryx to this point. I welcome our new board members to the Spyryx team and look forward to working closely with Dr. Shannon, Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Daniels to achieve our mission of delivering disease-modifying therapies for devastating pulmonary diseases.”
About Spyryx and their Experimental Therapy
Spyryx Biosciences is currently focused on developing inhaled therapeutics designed to restore a natural mechanism for maintaining proper airway liquid volumes in the lung. The Company’s development efforts are based on recent discoveries in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Tarran at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has demonstrated the connection between a regulatory protein in the lung, called SPLUNC1, and dysregulation of sodium absorption via the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC).
Spyryx was formed in 2013 to leverage a discovery by Dr. Tarran at UNC-Chapel Hill at that pharmaceutically modulates a previously unknown mechanism used by the lung to regulate fluid in the airways via the ENaC. This mechanism is dysfunctional in CF patients’ lungs, and is thought to be an underlying cause of the progressive dehydration of the airway surface liquid, which leads to the pulmonary symptoms of CF, ie: mucus accumulation, chronic bacterial colonization, immune response and tissue scarring, loss of lung function, and often early death.
Dr. Tarran explains: “Apical membrane ion channel activity controls the amount of salt (and water) on airway surfaces and hence, PCL volume and mucus hydration levels. It has recently been proposed that the initiating event in CF lung disease is depletion of the PCL due to abnormal ion channel activity (i.e. a lack of CFTR), which causes dehydrated mucus to adhere to airway surfaces, preventing it from being cleared), causing increased bacterial infections.
Dr. Tarran’s data suggest that greater understanding of this mechanism may have utility in COPD and other obstructive lung diseases, as well. The long term goal of the Tarran laboratory is to understand how homeostasis of PCL volume occurs in airway epithelia under normal and pathophysiological conditions.
The Company’s products have been created to mimic the ENaC inhibitory effect of SPLUNC1, but with significantly enhanced potency and drug-like properties. Spyryx is currently in lead selection and expected to proceed rapidly to pre-IND activities for cystic fibrosis, their lead indication.
“Currently, there is no cure for CF or COPD,” Dr. Tarran notes. “We hope that we can use this funding to translate our laboratory findings into treatments for both of these diseases. We gratefully acknowledge key funding from the NIH and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which has enabled us to get to this point.”
“Significant recent progress has been made in developing treatments for cystic fibrosis, but there is still a lot of unmet need in this disease,” says Dr. Tim Shannon. “Dr. Tarran and the team at Spyryx have developed strong data supporting their novel approach for restoring a normal mechanism for fluid regulation, and because it has the potential to treat all CF patients, it was a very compelling investment opportunity. We believe the company has a strong future ahead as it moves toward clinical validation of this therapeutic approach in a truly devastating genetic disease like CF, and perhaps beyond.”
For more information about Spyryx Biosciences, visit:
Spyryx Biosciences Inc.
Hatteras Venture Partners
Spyryx Biosciences Inc.
Hatteras Venture Partners