San Francisco-based oncology startup, Shasqi, announced an expansion of its research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Enterprise Innovation. The partnership centers on Shasqi‘s CAPAC platform, which is an abbreviation for Click-Activated Protodrugs Against Cancer. The platform separates tumor-targeting from the actual drug payload with the aim of maximizing potency while minimizing toxic side effects.
Shasqi’s CAPAC platform taps click chemistry for tumor targeting
CAPAC makes use of a two-part system: a tumor-targeting agent and a cancer therapeutic. When the protodrug locates the tumor’s targeting agent, click chemistry activates it. The technique joins two discrete molecular components much like a seat belt buckle. More precisely, the system makes use of a chemical reaction to precisely activate the cancer drug at the tumor location.
The origins of Shasqi trace back to the research of its founder, Dr. José M. Mejía Oneto, who described the approach in 2018 in an article titled “Localized Drug Delivery Promises To Improve Outcomes And Reduce Side Effects.” Dismayed by the fact that only a miniscule amount of a drug’s total dose reaches the intended site in the body while studying orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Davis, Oneto eventually landed on click chemistry as a potential solution. His explorations led him to coauthor a 2014 article explaining how an implantable biomaterial supporting in vivo click chemistry could amplify the delivery of certain small molecules.
In 2020, the company made strides with SQ3370, a unique therapy that utilizes the CAPAC platform, activating the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The company has also presented positive interim phase 1 results for SQ3370 in advanced solid tumors. Recipients had a dosage 12 times the usual amount without experiencing the typical toxicities.
A feather in Shasqi’s cap is its connection to the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences conferred the prestigious award to three luminaries for the evolution of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry. Among them was Carolyn Bertozzi, who not only serves as a scientific advisor to Shasqi but has also supported Mejía’s research.
Additionally, Shasqi became the first therapeutics company to win funding from the renowned startup incubator, Y Combinator.
To date, the company has raised a total of $65.4M across seven funding rounds. It raised $50M in a Series B round in November 2021. The startup has also received support from institutions like the National Cancer Institute and the National Science Foundation.
Filed Under: Drug Delivery, Oncology