Earlier today, Blend Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company based in Watertown, MA involved in the discovery of new classes of medicines to treat cancer, announced that it has appointed Dennis A. Ausiello, MD to the company’s Board of Directors. With deep experience and a distinguished record of leadership and accomplishment in medicine and scientific research, According to the company’s statement, Ausiello, the Jackson Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director, Emeritus of the MD/PhD Program at Harvard Medical School, brings a seasoned and unique perspective to support continued growth and advancement as an innovative oncology drug developer.

Blend Therapeutics, founded by three leaders in the fields of chemistry and nanomedicine from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed an innovative platform for creating novel cancer therapies designed to overcome the biological barriers that limit the effectiveness of many cancer medicines today. At the center of the company’s drug development is the company’s proprietary Pentarin™ platform technology which creates novel, miniaturized biologic drug conjugates or mBDCs comprised of a proprietary targeting ligand conjugated to a potent cell-killing agent through a chemical linker. The mBDCs are encapsulated in patented polymeric nanoparticles to protect them from their rapid clearance and allow for their accumulation in the tumor.

Antibody-drug conjugates
Blend’s approach with it’s Pentarin platform technology builds on the significant drug class of biologic drug conjugates – including antibody drug conjugates or ADCs – and evolves the therapeutic capabilities even further.  To date, ADCs have been developed for both hematologic and solid tumors, and patients are already benefitting greatly from these therapies in both settings. The specificity of the antibody coupled with the long circulation time allows antibody-drug conjugates to bind to the targeted tumor tissue and expose the cell to the potent cytotoxic payload, without harming health tissue.

Overcoming biological barriers
However, as a result of their unique design, Pentarins are able to overcome the biological barriers that limit therapeutic effectiveness against solid tumors which is not possible with other therapeutic approaches. A specific, synergistic anticancer activity occurs based on the multiple components of Pentarins: the nanoparticle enables high therapeutic concentration of miniaturized biologic drug conjugates or mBDCs in the tumor, using targeting agent much smaller than an antibody, such as peptides, or antibody fragments, makes it possible for mBDCs to rapidly penetrate into tumor tissue.

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As part of the combined entity, the ligand’s targeting ability allows for specific binding to tumor cells while the cell-killing payload is released inside the cancer cells. Overcoming one of the key biological barriers experienced with today’s biologic drug conjugates, mBDCs are more likely to reach the deeper layers of dense tumor tissue and associated extracellular matrix, resulting in unprecedented ability to therapeutically penetrate and target tumors.

Drug discovery pipeline
Blend’s drug discovery pipeline includes a lead drug candidate called BTP-114, a novel, personalized cisplatin prodrug derived from the company’s research and discovery heritage in platinum drugs, is expected to enter the clinic in mid-2015. In addition, BTP-277 is the first in a series of Pentarins, a miniaturized biologic drug conjugate (mBDC) encapsulated in a polymeric nanoparticle, being developed as a proprietary drug candidate.  Scientists at Blend anticipate applying the Pentarin platform using the targeting protein scaffolds of pharmaceutical collaborators.

Translation of scientific discoveries
Commenting on the appointment, of Dennis Ausiello, Omid Farohkzad, MD, Founder and Chairman of Blend Therapeutics and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, noted:  “We are privileged to expand our Board of Directors to include Ausiello, an international leader in academic medicine, with insights in the translation of scientific discoveries to developing new medicines.  “Ausiello exceptional understanding of how innovative medicines fit into clinical practice will be a tremendous asset to us as the company advances a new class of miniaturized biologic drug conjugates with the Pentarin platform and aims to make a significant impact for cancer patients.”

“Blend is uniquely positioned to break new ground with its next generation of biological drug conjugates with the potential to bring an innovative treatment approach for cancer patients,” Ausiello commented. “I look forward to sharing my insights and experiences with the leadership team at Blend as they advance the company’s promising pipeline of drug candidates designed to improve the treatment of cancer.”

Ausiello_MD_Dennis

Ausiello led one of the strongest Department of Medicine in the country from 1996 until 2013, where he managed an annual clinical, research and education budget exceeding $500 million. He is currently a director of the Center for Assessment Technology and Continuous Health (CATCH), an organization he founded to bridge science and technology across Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and industry partners to discover and apply new ways to quantitatively measure biomarkers of health and disease.

He is closely involved with Partners HealthCare, linking the resources of Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to provide comprehensive health care. Ausiello, who received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was President of the Association of American Physicians in 2006 and is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

New funding
At the same time of Ausiello appointment, the company also announced that it has secured $21 million in new funding. The new financing includes additional equity investment from a new investor and all of Blend’s existing venture investors in an expansion of the Series B round, as well as debt financing from an institutional investment firm.

The proceeds of the financing will enable Blend to fully exploit its proprietary Pentair platform technology, unveiled today, which creates novel, miniaturized biologic drug conjugates encapsulated in nanoparticles, representing a new class of cancer therapeutics. Including the $21 million announced today, the company which is backed by top-tier venture investors, including New Enterprise Associates, Flagship Ventures, NanoDimension and Eminent Venture Capital, has obtained a total of $39.8 million in funding to date.

Furthermore, the company announced that it has secured a technology license from a private biotechnology company for novel bi-podal biologic targeting ligands that is an exclusive license in the field of oncology. The in-licensing of this ligand technology is a strategic asset for Blend to develop a robust pipeline of Pentarins.

A new class of therapeutics
“We are excited to unveil our Pentarin platform as a product engine that creates a new class of cancer therapeutics, and an exceptional opportunity to create value for patients as well as our investors. We look forward to conducting Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling studies to advance our lead Pentarin drug program BTP-277 and completing IND enabling studies of our novel, personalized cisplatin, BTP-114, from our longstanding research and development in platinum drugs” explained Richard Wooster, PhD, President of Research and Development of Blend.

“Pentarins are an entirely new class of biologic drug conjugates specifically designed for solid tumors, and represent a significant advance in the field since the first development of antibody drug conjugates 35 years ago. We have created Pentarins to have a unique structure, miniaturization and nanoparticle encapsulation that enable the selective targeting of cancer cells and unprecedented penetration deep into tumor tissue, with the aim to improve the treatment of solid tumor cancers for patients.”

Lead program
In the advancement of Blend’s pipeline of novel drug programs, the proceeds from the financing will be used to further develop the company’s lead program, BTP-114, through studies to enable filing of an IND-application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Based on Blend’s historical R&D in novel platinum drug discovery and distinct from the Pentarin platform, BTP-114 is a novel, personalized cisplatin prodrug with novel chemistry designed to preferentially accumulate platinum at the tumor site, deliver a concentrated therapeutic effect and target specific cancers. The funding will also enable Blend to advance its first Pentarin drug candidate, BTP-277, to IND enabling studies as well as exploring other internal Pentarin programs. In addition, Blend anticipates developing Pentarins in partnership with biotechnology and pharmaceutical collaborators who have their own proprietary targeting protein scaffolds which can be deployed to create novel biologic drug conjugates using Blend’s Pentarin platform.

“Blend has made enormous progress to deploy its suite of technologies and oncology R&D expertise to create the valuable Pentarin platform and a pipeline that has come into view and is recognized by Blend’s investors,” said Omid Farohkzad, MD, Founder and Chairman of Blend Therapeutics and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. “While the company’s mission has remained steadfast – to develop cancer therapies with superior efficacy and selectivity that push conventional therapeutic boundaries – Blend has quietly consolidated its capabilities into the technologically superior Pentarin platform and implemented a thorough and comprehensive intellectual property strategy to advance the field of biologic drug conjugates and have much broader potential impact for patients with solid tumors.”

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