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2021-10-27| Funding

Mozart Therapeutics Makes Play with $55 Million Series A to Capitalize on Novel Tregs Pathway

by Joy Lin
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Mozart Therapeutics has closed a $55 million Series A round with backing from Eli Lilly, Merck, and Bayer. Founded in 2020 and based in Seattle, the new biotech is targeting a pathway, which involves a subtype of immune cells called CD8 regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat autoimmune diseases.

The round was led by seed investor ARCH Venture Partners and Sofinnova Partners. Additional backing came from Eli Lilly, MRL Ventures Fund (Merck’s early-stage fund), Leaps by Bayer, Altitude Life Science Ventures, and Alexandria Venture Investments.

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CD8 Regulatory T Cells 

Much of Mozart’s foundation comes from research done by the lab of co-founder Mark Davis, Ph.D., a Professor of Immunology and director of Stanford University’s Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection.

Davis had previously identified a CD8 regulatory T cell network that plays a key role in recognizing and eliminating inappropriately activated immune cells which attack the body’s own cells. Mouse models have shown that CD8 Tregs could suppress immune cells that cause multiple sclerosis.

Mozart plans to take its research into the clinic and use the Series A proceeds to advance its candidates.

The company is developing a candidate to treat celiac disease, an illness where people can’t eat gluten because their immune system would overreact to it. Another compound that targets inflammatory bowel disease is in the discovery phase.

Speaking to GeekWire, Mozart CEO Katie Fanning clarified that the compounds are “bispecific,” meaning that they have two different targets. The compounds are designed to target cells and inhibit Killer Ig-like Receptors (KIR) on the cell surface, she said. KIRs block the activation and function of immune cells that could cause disease.

“Mozart is doing something truly unique to change the treatment paradigm for patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases,” said Fanning. “We aim to reset and restore the immune system balance by leveraging a novel pathway to develop first-in-class CD8 Treg modulators as disease-modifying therapeutics to address an unmet need across a spectrum of diseases.”

Related Article: Anti-cancer Agent Derived From Himalayan Caterpillar Fungus Shines in Early Trials

 

Growing Interest in Tregs

Mozart is not the only player in the Treg field. 

Egle Therapeutics captured attention last week with a $46.4 million Series A led by LSP and Bpifrance and joined by Takeda’s venture arm. Earlier in August, fellow Seattle-based Sonoma Bio closed an oversubscribed $265 million Series B to advance its Treg cell therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. The same month, GentiBio landed a $157 million Series A to engineer Tregs to treat type 1 diabetes. 

The mentioned companies mainly work with CD4 Tregs. Mozart could potentially set itself apart with its work on CD8 Tregs, which no other company is working on.

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