Uniquity Bio emerges with $300m for MSD immunology drug

Towfiqu barbhuiya

New start-up Uniquity Bio arrived on the scene today with $300 million in funding from Blackstone Life Sciences and a clinical-stage inflammation and immunology drug licensed from MSD.

The FDA has already approved phase 2 trials of solrikitug, a monoclonal antibody targeting TSLP, in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. This should get underway in the next few weeks, and the drug could also have applications in additional respiratory and gastrointestinal indications, according to Blackstone.

Solrikitug is in the same class as Amgen and AstraZeneca’s Tezspire (tezepelumab), which has been approved as a treatment for severe asthma and is also in late-stage development for COPD. Total sales of the drug reached $653 million last year, fuelled by the launch of a new self-injector version.

Analysts have predicted blockbuster sales for Amgen and AZ’s drug, as it can be used across the board in patients with severe asthma, while current biologics – including GSK’s IL-5 inhibitor Nucala (mepolizumab) – are restricted to patients with asthma associated with Type 2 (T2) inflammation.

GSK, meanwhile, also bought into the TSLP category earlier this year with its $1.4 billion takeover of Aiolos Bio and AIO-001, in phase 2 for asthma. It has said the TSLP inhibitor could be best-in-class, thanks to dosing that could be as infrequent as once every six months. Tezspire needs to be given once a month.

There are other rivals out there as well, including Upstream Bio’s verekitug in phase 2 for asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps, and Sanofi’s lunsekimig (SAR443765), a bispecific antibody that blocks both TSLP and IL-13 and is in phase 2 for asthma.

“We believe solrikitug has the potential to be a life-changing medication for a significant number of patients who currently have very limited treatment options, and we are excited to move into the next phase of development,” said Brian Lortie, chief executive of Uniquity Bio.

The company’s website notes: “Our research suggests that the ceiling of efficacy for the TSLP class has not yet been reached in existing therapeutics, and we aim to deliver best-in-class efficacy across multiple respiratory and […] GI indications through appropriate dose optimisation.”

The financing is the second big investment by Blackstone in a biotech this year, coming after it agreed to provide up to $750 million in funding for Moderna’s mRNA-based influenza vaccine programme.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash