Sygnature backs Pathios in hunt for GPR65 modulators

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Pathios Therapeutics has enlisted CRO Sygnature Discovery to support its hunt for novel modulators of GPR65. The deal sees Sygnature take a stake in Pathios in part payment for its involvement in the Oxford-based biotech’s hit-to-lead program.

Since setting up shop in 2017, Pathios has focused its efforts on GPR65, a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) implicated in autoimmune diseases and cancer. The protein, which senses extracellular pH, is expressed by the proinflammatory T helper 17 cells that harm tissues in patients with autoimmune diseases. GPR65 is also implicated in cancer immune evasion.

“We founded Pathios to build on emerging science that demonstrated GPR65 sits at the nexus of autoimmune disease and immuno-oncology as this receptor links pathology caused by a low pH environment,” co-founder Tom McCarthy said in a statement. “The ultimate aim is to block the pathological process that GPR65 initiates without interfering with the physiological role of this receptor.” 

Pathios’ work on GPR65 has advanced to the hit-the-lead stage. By bringing Sygnature on board, the biotech hopes to add GPCR and medicinal chemistry expertise and otherwise expand the hit-to-lead work. Sygnature will also use its screening tools and other capabilities to broaden the hunt for hits.

The CRO will receive an equity stake and fees in return for the work. McCarthy, who led Spinifex Pharmaceuticals to a takeover by Novartis, said Sygnature’s decision to invest will give Pathios the chance to step up its R&D activities while it explores series A funding opportunities.

While McCarthy said Sygnature was backing Pathios “on this rare occasion,” the CRO provided similar support to another biotech cofounded by the ex-Spinifex CEO. Grey Wolf Therapeutics, which recently raised a £10 million ($13 million) series A round, also received seed funding from Sygnature. McCarthy is the co-founder and executive chairman of both Grey Wolf and Pathios.