RARE Daily

Star Emerges from Stealth with Plans to Be “Innovation Engine” for Rare Disease Therapies, Spins out Electra

February 16, 2022

Star Therapeutics has emerged from stealth mode with $100 million in funding today to pursue drug discovery and development in rare diseases with a plan of generating drug programs that target multiple diseases with a single therapy.

Photo: Adam Rosenthal, CEO and Founder of Star

The company also announced it had spun out Electra Therapeutics, the first in its family of companies, which separately reported it completed an $84 million venture round. Westlake Village BioPartners and OrbiMed co-led the financing with participation from Redmile Group, Cormorant Asset Management, Cowen Healthcare Investments, RA Capital, and New Leaf Venture Partners.

Star said all of its current drug programs represent first-in-class therapies and were internally generated, starting from early discovery efforts by its team. 

“We saw a tremendous opportunity for our team of drug hunters and drug developers to unlock the limited understanding of the underlying biology and develop therapies that can target multiple diseases at once,” said Adam Rosenthal, CEO and Founder of Star. “It is rewarding to see our strategy achieve success with our clinical-stage drug program in Electra, the first in our family of companies that we have unveiled today.”

Star’s initial focus has yielded numerous antibody programs at Electra for diseases in immunology and immuno-oncology, including a lead program that has rapidly progressed into phase 1 clinical studies. Star is planning to introduce a second company, focused on rare hematologic diseases in the near future.

Electra is building a pipeline of novel therapies targeting SIRP, a family of cell surface receptors on various immune cell types. Taking a first-in-class approach to engage SIRP beyond the current drug development efforts in cancer, the company is targeting specific SIRP proteins to deplete specific pathological immune cells. ELA026, the company’s lead product candidate, exhibits this novel mechanism of action and is currently in phase 1 clinical studies, including a trial in secondary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (sHLH), a rare life-threatening inflammatory disease. ELA026 is also advancing in other immunological diseases. In addition, the company’s pipeline includes preclinical programs in immunology and immuno-oncology.

Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare clinical syndrome characterized by fever, hepatosplenomegaly, cytopenia, and progressive multiple-organ failure. Secondary HLH (sHLH) predominantly occurs in adults and is a life-threatening hyperinflammatory condition for which there is no approved treatment. sHLH can be triggered by cancer, immunotherapy, infection, or an autoimmune disease. Once triggered, sHLH requires immediate intervention. Without treatment, it can rapidly progress from symptoms such as persistent fever, hepatomegaly and/or splenomegaly, and cytopenias, to multi-organ failure and death. Even with the current use of off-label treatments that have toxicity challenges and limited efficacy, sHLH remains fatal in approximately 60 percent of adults within 3.5 years.

Author: Rare Daily Staff

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