More claudin buzz as Alentis raises $105m

Alentis Therapeutics
Alentis Therapeutics

Swiss biotech Alentis Therapeutics has raised a very respectable $105 million in third-round financing that will be dedicated to the development of its Claudin-targeting drugs, a hot topic in biopharma right now.

The Series C, led by Jeito Capital, Novo Holdings, and RA Capital Management, will be used to support phase 1 and 2 development of Alentis’ anti-Claudin-1 antibodies for organ fibrosis and CLDN1 positive tumours, as well as to build up its CLDN1 drug-hunting platform, including the addition of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) and bispecific antibody capabilities.

Claudins have emerged in the last few years as a new drug target, particularly in oncology, although much of the activity to date has focused on Claudin 18.2, with a number of companies, including Astellas, Innovent, I-Mab, BioNTech, and Legend Biotech, having drugs against the target in clinical development.

There are also attempts to target Claudin-6, for example, with BioNTech developing a CAR-T/mRNA vaccine approach for solid tumours that has shown preliminary efficacy in phase 1/2 testing.

Alentis reckons it has a chance to lead the field with its Claudin-1 programme, however, which it says is an as-yet-unaddressed target that seems to have a hand in helping tumours evade surveillance by the immune system, as well as the development of fibrosis (scarring) in various organs.

Compared to Claudin-18.2, Claudin-1 “has the advantage of a much broader expression profile, highlighting Alentis’ growth potential and significant commercial potential,” according to Jeito, which also contributed to Alentis’ $67 million Series B in 2021.

Its lead programme is ALE.F02, an antibody currently in development for the treatment of advanced kidney, lung, and liver fibrosis, which has cleared a phase 1 study in healthy volunteers and is in a second phase 1 study looking at ascending doses, in preparation for a phase 2 trial.

Following after is lead oncology asset ALE.C04, another antibody which is scheduled to start human testing in the latter half of this year. Jeito said in a statement that Alentis has “clearly defined the [Claudin-1-positive] cancer patient population, including T-cell excluded cancers, as the target” for the drug.

“We are absolutely delighted with this support from our investors,” said Dr Roberto Iacone, Alentis’ chief executive.

“There are huge unmet needs in organ fibrosis and cancer, and this funding enables us to continue with the important work we’re doing in the […] space and generate clinical data from both our programmes.”

Novo Holdings' senior partner Naveed Siddiqi is joining the board of the biotech, which is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with R&D operations in Strasbourg, France. Existing investors BB Pureos Bioventures, Bpifrance through its InnoBio 2 fund, and Schroders Capital also participated in the round.