'I am Not Dead Yet' target earns Berlin virtual biotech a deal with Evotec

By Dani Bancroft

- Last updated on GMT

‘I am Not Dead Yet’ target earns virtual biotech deal with Evotec

Related tags Obesity Evotec

Following an €8M Series A fundraising round by Eternygen GmBh, the German CRO Evotec AG will help get the virtual biotech’s metabolic disease inhibitor programme to preclinical trials. 

Eternygen is an academic startup that operates virtually​, relying on a network​ of contract research organisations (CROs) to develop its metabolic disease pipeline.

One such CRO is Evotec, which participated in the round led by Epidarex Capital - a Scottish VC that supports academic spin-outs with investment from Big Pharma firms such as Eli Lilly & Co.

Eternygen will use Evotec’s drug discovery R&D expertise to develop an inhibitor of the I am Not Dead Yet (INDY​) equivalent gene in humans to the preclinical stage.

If successful, a small molecule candidate will be developed for a range of metabolic indications, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Eternygen has the potential to create a first in class small molecule inhibitor of INDY which could be a significant development in the treatment paradigm for dietary related metabolic diseases,” ​said Johnston Erwin, VP Corporate Business Development at Eli Lilly.

Grit Zahn Ph.D., Head of Research at Eternygen told Outsourcing-Pharma “Evotec will be providing most of the external work in biology and chemistry, with its world class expertise in general drug development and the metabolic disease space.”

Liver transporter

INDY is a gene target in Drosophila​, for which the human homolog translates to a sodium coupled citrate transporter​ (NaCT) in the liver.  

Eternygen has developed proof-of-concept for a small molecule inhibitor to target NaCT, which Evotec will continue to progress to preclinical development.

In vivo ​knock out models have shown​ inhibition of NaCT reduces insulin resistance and reducing body fat (adiposity), which is currently the main treatment​ for diseases with excess fats in the liver (NASH and NAFLD).

Zahn told us that Eternygen plans to license out the inhibitor at a later stage, and “depending on the project progress, we are open [to other CRO partnerships]. At the moment though we are very happy with Evotec.”

Marco Janezic, CEO Eternygen, added “Epidarex and Evotec have significant expertise turning novel targets into successful drug development projects and to commercialize such programs,”​ in a statement.

Virtual operations

Zahn explained that a virtual operating model means a reduced demand for staff and facilities, which is a challenge for smaller companies and startups.

“This means we are very flexible. We can bring together experts at very short notice and scale up without needing to rent another lab or hire experts.”

So although the Eternygen team has an office in Berlin, the majority of work will be performed at Evotec, with staff or consultants at the CRO’s Hamburg and Göttingen facilities in Germany, and Abingdon, UK, site.

Feature Image: iStock/eranicle

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