Arvinas Inc., a New Haven, Connecticut
based biotechnology startup firm, has been awarded $4.25 million in state loan funding to assist it in developing a new class of drugs to combat cancer and other diseases. Located in the city’s Science Park, Arvinas is founded on research licensed from Yale University and is in the process of hiring its first 25 employees.
The firm’s initial focus will be on cancer, but long-term targets include inflammatory, autoimmune and rare diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to lupus. It expects to have its first drug developed and ready to be tested in a clinic in three years. It is looking to attract additional investment and expand.
“The pharmaceutical and biotech industries are looking for innovation,” says Tim Shannon, CEO of Arvinas and venture partner at Canaan Partners. “We have it.”
Kush Parmar, M.D., Ph.D., a principal of 5AM Ventures, calls Arvinas’s approach “a game-changing platform with the possibility to transform therapies and medicine.”
The new drugs being developed by Arvinas would induce the cell’s own ability to remove disease-causing proteins by binding to a protein and “labeling” it for degradation and thereby removing it from the cell. One key advantage of this approach is the ability to target proteins that are not currently “druggable.” Whereas traditional drugs can only target 25 percent of the body’s 20,000 proteins that can be inhibited, many other proteins that can’t be inhibited can be degraded using Arvinas’s approach, thus radically expanding the number of disease-causing “rogue” proteins that can become the targets of new drugs.
The Yale Office of Cooperative Research secured intellectual property protection for Crews’ technology and was instrumental in developing and executing a strategy to form Arvinas to capitalize on the commercial potential.
“Our economic development team worked aggressively to keep this company – and this technology – in Connecticut,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy. “Not only does the company represent great promise for the future of health care, but it will bring new jobs and expand New Haven’s growing pharmaceutical presence. We’re very pleased to have Arvinas call New Haven its long-term home.”
The Department of Economic and Community Development is providing a $2.5 million loan for research and development, while Connecticut Innovations is supporting Arvinas with $1 million in equity funding, as part of the company’s $15 million Series A round, as well as a bioscience facilities loan of $750,000. The DECD assistance requires approval of the State Bond Commission. Arvinas secured the balance of its Series A equity round from Canaan Partners, 5AM Ventures and Elm Street Ventures.