Calluna Pharma launches with €75m to target inflammatory and fibrotic diseases

New European biopharma company emerges from Oxitope and Arxx merger with a pipeline of antibodies targeting immunological diseases.

Formed by the merger of biotech companies Oxitope Pharma and Arxx Therapeutics, new European biotech Calluna Pharma has emerged, securing a €75 million Series A financing round to advance a pipeline of therapies that harness the body’s innate immune system.

The funding round, led by Dutch investment group Forbion, with participation from Norwegian investors Sarsia, p53 and Investinor, will be used to advance Calluna’s pipeline of selective antibodies designed to target inflammatory and fibrotic diseases.

The new company combines the work of Netherlands-based Oxitope biopharma, a developer of therapeutics for inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases caused by oxidative stress, with that of Norwegian biotech Arxx, a developer monoclonal antibodies targeting non-resolving tissue fibrosis.

“In joining forces, these two key players in the innate immunology space have created an exciting new clinical company that has four promising therapies in its pipeline with excellent preclinical proof-of-concept data,” said Dr John Montana, CEO of Calluna.

With an approach that involves targeting “upstream innate immune amplifiers,” Calluna is focused on damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). The company claims this strategy allows the disruption of a range of disease-associated downstream signaling pathways while maintaining a favorable safety profile. The company’s pipeline includes several clinical candidates for diseases driven by acute or chronic inflammation and non-resolving tissue fibrosis.

Calluna’s lead program is a clinical-stage monoclonal antibody designed to neutralize the bioactivity of a DAMP protein implicated in conditions including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, chronic kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Another program focuses on a monoclonal antibody neutralizing oxidized phospholipids, which plays a role in the onset and progression of various inflammatory and fibrotic diseases.

Forbion principal, Dr Antoine Boulanger said that the merger was an example of the firm’s strategy to “build new and enable existing companies.”

“As a result, we recognized the strength of combining these two companies’ pioneering approaches to disrupt the treatment of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, the complementarity of management skills, and the resulting robust clinical pipeline,” he said.

Despite the sizable funding round, Calluna says it is “raising further financing” to propel its pipeline through multiple clinical milestones over the next couple of years.

Photograph: Maksim Shmeljov/Shutterstock