Pliant Therapeutics raised $62 million in a second round of financing that will be used to support the development of the company’s lead product candidates in fibrotic diseases.
The funding is expected to advance therapies to early-stage clinical trials in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a liver disease characterized by progressive inflammation and fibrosis of the bile ducts.
The funding will also be used to support research projects in other fibrotic diseases.
Pliant was launched early in 2016 after Third Rock Ventures raised $45 million in Series A financing. The company’s product engine was designed to target fibrosis in a variety of diseases affecting different organs.
Specifically, Pliant is focused on the development of fibrotic tissue-specific inhibitors of integrins and of the TGF-β pathway.
Integrins are a class of proteins involved in the adhesion of cells to each other and to a substrate, and have been suggested as key drivers in fibrosis development. TGF-β is a key regulator of physiological healing and fibrosis.
The company’s lead product blocks both the αvβ1 and αvβ6 integrins, and it is considered a dual selective inhibitor. In preclinical studies, this molecule was seen to regulate the activity of integrins, block the action of TGF-β, and prevent or possibly reverse the growth of fibrotic tissue within the lungs and liver.
Pliant plans to investigate the safety and effectiveness of this dual selective inhibitor in patients in 2019.
“We appreciate the vote of confidence of our respected biotech investors who join us in the pursuit of new medicines for patients with debilitating and deadly fibrotic diseases,” Bernard Coulie, an MD and PhD, the president and CEO of Pliant Therapeutics, said in a press release.
“Our Series B financing will support the early development of our lead product candidate in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, as well as our aggressive strategy to build our pipeline of proprietary product candidates and attract partnering opportunities,” Coulie added.
The Series B financing was conducted by Cowen Healthcare Investments in collaboration with new investors, including Schroder Adveq, Eventide Asset Management, S-Cubed Capital, Menlo Ventures, Agent Capital, and undisclosed institutional investors.
“The unique biological insights Pliant Therapeutics has uncovered about the role of integrins as key drivers of fibrosis will fuel the discovery of novel therapeutics that have the potential to address a range of fibrotic diseases,” said Kevin Raidy, managing partner of Cowen Healthcare Investments and now a member of the Pliant board of directors.
“I look forward to working with the Pliant team as they leverage their product discovery engine to create multiple product candidates to treat fibrosis,” Raidy added.