Skip to main content

Artax is granted 10 million dollars to foster clinical trials with an innovative drug in patients who suffer from autoimmune disorders

By 16 de October de 2015No Comments
< Back to news
Luc Martí, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Artax Biopharma (Photo: Daniel Portales, PCB).

Artax is granted 10 million dollars to foster clinical trials with an innovative drug in patients who suffer from autoimmune disorders

The start-up Artax Biopharma –focusing on the development of first-in-class drugs to treat autoimmune diseases- has closed a Series B series investment funding round totaling $10 Million to boost clinical trials of its most advanced compound, drug AX- 024. This biotech- based in Cambridge (Massachusetts) and founded by Damià Tormo, a scientist and entrepreneur from Valencia– leads a team in Spain that manages a large part of the project in Europe from its offices located in Valencia and at Barcelona Science Park (PCB). 


The injection of capital was led by Henri Termeer, former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Genzyme, and Raj Parekh, partner of the venture capital firm Advent Life Sciences. Both scientists, Tormo and Termeer, will join the Board of Directors of Artax Biopharma. AM Pappas and other individual investors also participated in this funding round.

“The ten million dollars will be spent mainly, says Luc Marti, COO of Artax, to boost Phase Ib clinical trials (already initiated) and Phase IIa of compound AX-024, a first-in-class oral drug, which acts through a mechanism of action unexplored until now: the interaction between TCR (T cell receptors or T lymphocytes) and protein NCK, which plays a fundamental role in the activation of these cells”. The mechanism of action of AX-024 can block T cell attack on healthy tissue, while making it possible to maintain its protective functions of the immune system against infections.

The new compound is the result of research led by Dr. Balbino Alarcon from the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center (CBMSO) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Dr. Alarcón was the discoverer of the key role of NCK molecules and their possible use as a therapeutic target in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, arthritis, Crohn’s disease or Lupus, among others, in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells.

“The selective inhibition of NCK is an area with huge therapeutic potential for the treatment of autoimmune diseases where Artax is leading research efforts worldwide. We are very grateful for the trust our investors have placed on this new technology and the potential of our company. They will help us to develop the full potential of our products and to make them available to patients who need them”, said Damià Tormo, founder and CEO of the start-up.

Artax will also allocate part of the funds obtained to develop a portfolio of new molecules. Specific control of T cells through TCR opens new opportunities for the development of new compounds with the potential to become new generation immunomodulators for the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, says Andrés Gagete, director of R & D. Therefore, Artax has started to work on new drug candidates in collaboration with Dr. Alarcón´s team- currently the company´s scientific director- whom will continue to work with Artax to identify additional NCK inhibitors.

A ‘first-in-class’ with excellent results on Phase I trials  

Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to function abnormally attacking body tissues and organs that it considers “foreign”. Current treatments pose two big pitfalls: their administration is mostly by intravenous route; have low specificity and exert an immunosuppressant action. Hence, currently available treatments severely interfere with the immune system, decreasing their activity, which in turn reduces their effectiveness against infections by viruses and bacteria. AX-024 is the first oral drug that “modulates” the body´s immune response by inhibiting the activity of T cells selectively: it prevents T lymphocytes from responding against antigens but preserves their protective role against infection by pathogens.

In Phase 1, compound AX-024, administered orally, was well tolerated in healthy volunteers, even at very high doses. Moreover, experiments carried out ex vivo showed that the treatment in humans exerts a significant immunomodulatory effect on T lymphocytes