Pheon Therapeutics launched this week following the closing of a $68 million Series A financing in March 2022. The investment will allow Pheon to advance its lead antibody-drug-conjugate (ADC) program to clinical proof-of-concept and establish a pipeline of novel ADCs for hard-to-treat cancers. The financing was led by Brandon Capital, Forbion and Atlas Venture, with participation from seed investor Research Corporation Technologies.

“In the last few years ADC drugs have started to show unprecedented clinical efficacy through a better understanding of the properties that make an effective ADC, combined with next generation payloads and targets,” said Leigh Zawel, Chief Scientific Officer of the new company. “We are excited by the potential of Pheon’s first-in-class antibody target coupled with its novel proprietary payload platform to make a significant contribution to the ADC field and cancer patients.”

Most recently, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan) broke new ground demonstrating an almost 50% reduction in disease progression or death in patients with HER2-low metastatic breast cancer.

Pheon’s lead program exploits a novel target that is highly expressed in a broad range of solid tumors. The compound is expected to reach IND within the next 18 months. Pheon uses both novel and clinically validated mAbs. It arms them either with its proprietary payload platform, which boasts a novel mechanism of action, or with off-the-shelf linker payload combinations.

Chief Executive Officer Bertrand Damour heads the Company’s leadership team. Pheon’s co-founders include Paul Jackson, Vice President R&D, and advisor David Thurston. Thurston was previously co-founder of Spirogen, whose payload technology is used in Zynlonta (loncastuximab tesirine-lpy), another recently approved ADC.

Damour has over 20 years’ management experience in both the European and US biotech industries having been the CEO of several companies. He was previously CEO of NBE Therapeutics, the developer of NBE-002, an anti-ROR1 ADC which Boehringer Ingelheim acquired for $1.4 billion in 2020.

He said, “Pheon is developing a first-in-class ADC and has built a highly differentiated proprietary payload platform which is gaining strong momentum. We are laser-focused on implementing our strategy to get our first program into clinical development as rapidly as possible and the preclinical data generated so far are very promising. The track record and expertise of the leadership team at Pheon is outstanding and I am proud to be working with them on this innovative approach to developing treatments for cancer patients.”

Zawel has over two decades of oncology drug discovery experience and was previously the CSO at NASDAQ-listed Cullinan Oncology where he oversaw the development of CLN-081, a best-in-class Exon20 EGFR TKI that was ultimately partnered with Taiho Pharmaceuticals and Zai Labs. Prior to Cullinan, Zawel was Vice President and East Coast Site Head for Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, a group that achieved four INDs in the four years under his remit.

He said, “ADC technology has reached an inflection point. At Pheon, I’m thrilled to be working with Bertrand and with the team that we have assembled which has deep technical expertise and the resources to develop the next generation of ADCs to positively impact the lives of patients with cancer.”

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