Surrozen, a newly formed biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing drugs that promote the repair and regeneration of human tissues, has closed a $33 million Series A financing led by The Column Group, a science-driven venture capital firm based in San Francisco. The funds will be used to implement a broad-based drug discovery platform aimed at unlocking the therapeutic potential of Wnt signaling, which plays a central role in organism development, stem-cell maintenance and tissue regeneration.
“Wnt proteins profoundly impact the formation of tissues and their repair after injury, representing an enormous opportunity for innovative drugs that can address organ degeneration and refractory healing conditions,” said Tim Kutzkey, Ph.D., acting CEO of Surrozen and managing partner of The Column Group. “Owing to their poor solubility, Wnt proteins themselves have never been successfully advanced as therapeutics. However, technology developed in the lab of Dr. Chris Garcia, co-founder of Surrozen, has overcome this previously insurmountable hurdle, enabling the generation of active Wnt ‘surrogates’ with attractive, drug-like properties.”
Surrozen’s founders include world leaders in the scientific research community and bring complementary expertise in Wnt biology, protein engineering, and stem cells. They are:
- K. Christopher Garcia, Ph.D.
Dr. Garcia is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Structural Biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the principal inventor of Surrozen’s surrogate Wnt technology.
- Roeland Nusse, Ph.D.
Dr. Nusse is an HHMI Investigator, Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research and a professor of Developmental Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He also chairs Stanford’s Department of Developmental Biology, is director of the Stanford Cancer Stem Cell Research Program, member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Dr. Nusse co-founded the Wnt field with the discovery of the first Wnt gene (Int1) with Harold Varmus in 1982.
- Calvin Kuo, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Kuo is the Maureen Lyles D’Ambrogio Professor of Medicine and a professor of Chemical and Systems Biology, leader of the Cancer Biology Program at the Stanford Cancer Center, and vice chair for Basic and Translational Research in the Department of Medicine.
- Claudia Janda, Ph.D.
Dr. Janda is a senior scientist at Surrozen and former research scientist and postdoctoral associate in the Garcia Lab at Stanford University. She is co-inventor of Surrozen’s foundational technology.
“Wnt pathway activation has been a biochemical puzzle for decades. Our technology opens the door to address fundamental biological and therapeutic questions in tissue repair for the first time,” Dr. Garcia said. “I am confident that our team’s deep expertise in many complementary areas will drive these important scientific advances into useful drugs.”
Surrozen’s board of directors includes: Tim Kutzkey, Ph.D., acting chief executive officer of Surrozen and managing partner of The Column Group; David Goeddel, Ph.D., managing partner of The Column Group; Harold Varmus, M.D., co-recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine; and Wen-Chen Yeh, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Surrozen. In addition to the company’s academic founders, Surrozen’s scientific advisory board includes Dr. Varmus; Hans Clevers, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Genetics at the Hubrecht Institute in Ubrecht, the Netherlands; and Bart Williams, Ph.D., professor for the Program in Skeletal Disease and Tumor Microenvironment at the Van Andel Research Institute.
“There is perhaps no field within human biology that has more exciting and untapped potential than Wnt signaling,” said Chief Scientific Officer Wen-Chen Yeh, M.D., Ph.D., formerly the scientific executive director at Amgen. “Surrozen’s foundational technology has the potential to generate a broad pipeline of Wnt pathway agonists that elicit tissue regeneration for a diverse array of conditions with great medical need. Our vision includes gaining a comprehensive understanding of tissue-specific mechanisms guiding the repair process, including the timing of the response and other signals that may be involved.”
Filed Under: Drug Discovery