Treadwell emerges with two clinical cancer compounds, $27M seed from Tio

Cancer play Treadwell debuted Monday as Tio Bioventures’s first portfolio company with $27 million in seed funding and a pair of differentiated oral small molecules that are already in the clinic.

Founded last year, Tio intends to invest its $120 million first fund in three to five internally incubated companies, with a primary focus on first-in-class therapies discovered de novo or in-licensed. Via its Tio Discovery unit, co-founder Shane Burgess said the firm provides R&D services “from white board all the way to clinic” while shepherding the start-ups until they’re ready for independence.

Treadwell Therapeutics Inc., which was founded in July, has three compounds. It licensed the products from University Health Network’s Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research (CFIBCR), where co-founder Tak Wah Mak is director. Mak, Tio’s other co-founder and managing partner, is also a co-founder of Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:AGIO).

Burgess, one of Treadwell’s co-CEOs, told BioCentury the firm has an option to invest another $25 million in Treadwell this quarter. The company plans to raise a series A round next quarter.

Treadwell’s first clinical asset is CFI-400945, a first-in-class PLK4 inhibitor in Phase II for breast and prostate cancers and Phase I for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome, according to Per BioCentury’s BCIQ database, no other companies are developing products against PLK4.

Treadwell’s second clinical product, CFI-402257, is in Phase I/II testing for breast cancer and Phase I for solid tumors. That compound is an oral TTK inhibitor that Treadwell thinks could be best in class.

Rachel Humphrey, Treadwell’s newly appointed CMO and head of R&D for Tio Discovery, told BioCentury, “The potency of this agent appears to be the highest among those that are in development.” She said it is roughly 10 times more potent than BOS-172722 from Boston Pharmaceuticals Inc., the only other oral TTK inhibitor in clinical development. That program is in Phase I testing for solid tumors.

Treadwell expects clinical readouts for the compounds in 2021. This half, it expects to begin enrolling patients in the first clinical trial of its third asset, CFI-402411, an immunomodulatory compound that inhibits HPK1.

Burgess believes Treadwell has the most advanced HPK1 inhibitor. Nimbus Therapeutics LLC is also pursuing the target; in July, that company expanded its deal with Celgene Corp. to include an option for its HPK1 inhibitors in cancer. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) has since closed its acquisition of Celgene.

Genentech Inc. may also be developing an HPK1 program. In October, Ira Mellman’s group at the Roche (SIX:ROG; OTCQX:RHHBY) unit showed in a Cell Reports paper efficacy against colon and brain tumors in mice upon genetic inactivation of HPK1 activity alone or in combination with PD-L1 inhibitors.

Tio and Treadwell announced Humphrey’s arrival along with the company’s debut. An industry veteran, Humphrey’s previous roles include SVP and CMO at CytomX Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:CTMX); SVP and head of immuno-oncology at AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN); VP and development lead for immuno-oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY); and director and global clinical leader of R&D at the pharmaceuticals unit of Bayer AG (Xetra:BAYN). She has led development of drugs including Imfinzi durvalumab, Yervoy ipilimumab and Nexavar sorafenib.

Treadwell’s other executives include co-CEO Michael Tusche, CFO Jeff Rona and co-founder and CSO Mark Bray. It has offices in Hong Kong, New York and Toronto.

Targets: HPK1 (MAP4K1) - Mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase kinase 1; PLK4 (STK18) - Polo-like kinase 4; TTK (MPS1) - TTK protein kinase

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