Amplyx Pharmaceuticals, Led By Women, Builds Platform for Improving Drugs for HIV, Cancer

4/20/10Follow @xconomy

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it binds with a common protein called FKBP, which was able to help the treatment stay active against an HIV protease 20-times longer. That’s the difference between a drug that gets metabolized in a few minutes, versus one that could be given as a once-daily pill for HIV, Heron says.

This is the same problem that Lexington, MA-based Concert Pharmaceuticals is attempting to solve with a different method of chemistry. Concert is the far better-heeled contender in this race, having secured a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline that could be worth as much as $1 billion over time, and which has already received a $12 million milestone for initiating a clinical trial of an HIV drug that’s supposed to eliminate the need for ritonavir. This is part of GlaxoSmithKline’s strategy to grab back some of the market share it has lost from the leading HIV drug producer, Foster City, CA-based Gilead Sciences.

Amplyx doesn’t have a big-name partner, and it isn’t as far along in testing as Concert. With its new round of cash, Amplyx is working to show that its HIV drug can be given orally. But to show the broad potential of its “platform” for modifying existing drugs, Amplyx also has a project to make an improved antibiotic, as well as a cancer treatment, Heron says.

If Amplyx can hit the milestones that its angel backers have laid out, it could be in a position to raise more venture capital or potentially form a partnership with a big drugmaker, Heron says. I didn’t hear her saying anything concrete about timelines for when Amplyx will have its first drug in clinical trials. This is obviously a long way from generating solid proof that its concept works in people, and she didn’t try to pretend otherwise. But Heron herself is an angel investor in the company, and thought enough of its potential to devote her time as CEO.

“We have vastly increased the probability of success because the molecules we’re working with have been shown to be safe,” Heron says. “And it’s really a platform we can apply to many different drugs.”

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