CSHL spinoff earns $2M TopSpin buy-in

Un-inhibited: Studies testing enzyme inhibitors as potential cancer treatments are proceeding "full steam ahead," according to DepYmed CEO Andreas Grill.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A cutting-edge Long Island biotech with a unique cancer-fighting platform has closed a critical $2 million funding round.

DepYmed Inc., spun out of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with a little help from New York City stalwart Ohr Pharmaceutical, has announced the completion of a Series A funding round with TopSpin Fund LP, which is controlled by Roslyn-based VC and private-equity firm TopSpin Partners.

depymed-logoThe 2014 startup, which is developing multiple therapeutic applications based on the inhibition of enzyme phosphates, received $1 million from the TopSpin Fund at closing, with another $1 million riding on the achievement of specific developmental milestones.

DepYmed President and CEO Andreas Grill referenced “general milestones” common to the “normal process” of bringing an experimental compound through clinical development.

Currently conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial of its lead compound – MSI-1436C, which goes by the stage name Trodusquemine – DepYmed is thrilled by the investment from the “prestigious Long Island venture capital fund,” according to its chief executive.

“We believe the investment validates our approach to treating cancer with phosphatase inhibitors,” Grill said Friday, adding TopSpin Fund’s support “provides us with the ability to further expand our platform of PTP1B inhibitors for the potential treatment of diseases across multiple therapeutic areas.”

“PTP1B” refers to the critical protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, the main target of the clinical study underway at Northwell Health’s Lake Success-based Monter Cancer Center. Specifically, researchers are testing Trodusquemine’s ability to fight HER2-positive breast cancer.

DepYmed is also in preclinical development, in collaboration with CSHL investigators, of more potent PTP1B inhibitors as potential treatments for additional cancer indications, numerous metabolic diseases and even central nervous system disorders.

Steve Winick: TopSpin guru is on board.

Steve Winick: TopSpin guru is on board.

The TopSpin Fund follows in the footsteps of the Long Island Venture Fund, a successful VC fund that began investing in 1995.

DepYmed was also the 10th and final company to win seed funding through the first incarnation of Accelerate Long Island, with a $50,000 investment from the regional business booster matched by a $50,000 buy-in from the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, a venture vehicle powered by TopSpin and Setauket investment firm Jove Equity Partners.

As part of the Series A financing agreement, TopSpin Fund Managing Director Steve Winick has joined DepYmed’s Board of Directors. A registered patent attorney and serial investor with a hand (and a stake) in several early-stage Long Island companies, Winick spent more than two decades as chief technology officer of Honeywell’s security business and was founder and president of the consumer-product conglomerate’s wireless-communications services business.

Noting Winick’s “experience dealing with startup companies,” Grill said the TopSpin guru would be a welcomed addition to the DepYmed directors.

“We’re pretty excited to bring him on board,” the CEO said. “He’s had several successes in the past with TopSpin, and his input as a DepYmed board member will be very helpful.”

Although Winick’s savvy (and cash) will bolster DepYmed’s development process, the startup is still “years away” from producing a viable commercial product, according to Grill. That Phase 1 investigation underway at the Monter Center is simply a “maximum tolerated dose” trial, the CEO noted, the successful completion of which only leads to new clinical testing.

“We’re still early in clinical development,” Grill told Innovate LI. “We still need to go through Phases 2 and 3.”

At an even earlier stage is DepYmed’s development of a new generation of PTP1B inhibitors targeting obesity, Type 2 diabetes and those central nervous system indications. Part of the TopSpin Fund’s $2 million investment will be used to usher “additional analogues” toward their own clinical trials, Grill noted, but the investment will primarily support the development of a new HER2-positive breast cancer treatment.

“The money will help bring the next generation of PTP1B inhibitors closer to clinical development, but at the moment we’re still looking primarily at HER2 and other cancer types,” he said. “The cancer study is full steam ahead at this point.”