Duke-NUS spinout PairX Bio launches with strong biotech credentials, VC backing
Startup led by seasoned US and Singapore scientists-cum-entrepreneurs and investors to advance innovative immunotherapy platform exclusively licensed from Duke-NUS Medical School
Credit: PairX | Duke-NUS Medical School
SINGAPORE, 17 August 2020 – PairX Bio (“PairX”), a next generation biotechnology startup focusing on cutting-edge cancer immunotherapies, and Duke-NUS Medical School (“Duke-NUS”), Singapore’s flagship research-intensive graduate entry medical school, today announced the formation and spinout of the Company from Duke-NUS, where PairX’s foundational technologies were developed.
Cancer immunotherapies have already had a transformative impact for some patients, by enhancing the ability of the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. Cancer cells express antigens on their surfaces, which can be recognised by immune cells (T cells) and potentiate cancer cell killing. However, major challenges in the field include identifying the antigens being expressed by cancer cells, and potentiating T cells to recognise and attack the cancer cells. PairX’s unique approaches to identifying these shared antigen and T cell pairs have already been demonstrated and hold promise for solving major unmet needs.
PairX discovers and develops innovative cancer immunotherapies targeting shared tumour-associated antigens derived from aberrantly spliced proteins. The company leverages its differentiated platform built upon deep understanding of mRNA splicing biology, proprietary antigen and T cell validation methods, and patient derived tumours and data across multiple cancer types. The founding team and investors bring demonstrated track records in cancer drug discovery and biotech company-building towards significant value-creating milestones.
PairX has exclusively licensed the intellectual property (IP) from Duke-NUS and continues to leverage the School’s world-class research capabilities, which are further enhanced by its Academic Medicine partnership with SingHealth, Singapore’s largest healthcare group.
The biotech startup is led by scientific founders Dr David M. Epstein, Founder and CEO of Black Diamond Therapeutics, a precision oncology medicine company, and Adjunct Associate Professor at Duke-NUS’ Cancer & Stem Cell Biology (CSCB) programme, and Dr Raymond Lee, Research Fellow at Duke-NUS’ CSCB programme. PairX was incubated by Esco Ventures, and the founding investors of the Company are Esco Ventures and Avendesora, an investment company represented by Mr Jeffrey Lu.
“I am delighted that Duke-NUS, Esco Ventures, Avendesora and the PairX founding team are partnering to commercialise our platform and pipeline of novel cancer antigen-T cell pairs. This seed financing uniquely positions PairX to advance precision immunotherapies designed to treat cancer patients defined by shared mRNA splicing defects,” said Adj Assoc Prof Epstein.
Central to the commercial stewardship of Duke-NUS’ technological innovations, including the IP licensed to PairX, is Duke-NUS’ Centre for Technology & Development (CTeD), which provides a full suite of commercialisation-focused services to budding inventors and entrepreneurs among its research rank and file. These include due diligence and IP filing services, identification of suitable partners, negotiation of financial and legal agreements, and other business-focused expertise to ultimately support Duke-NUS IP licensing and spin-outs, such as PairX.
“We are very excited about PairX’s deployment of Duke-NUS technology, the result of a very good working relationship between Duke-NUS and Esco Ventures over our incubation period,” said Dr Cheryl McCaffery, Director of CTeD, Duke-NUS Medical School. “This is the 14th significant deal closed by CTeD, and the ninth start-up company, founded by our Investigators, to which CTeD has facilitated the granting of licences to NUS IP rights arising from our research programmes. We wish PairX every possible success.”
“Esco Ventures X is pleased to be partnering with Prof David Epstein and Mr Jeff Lu, in this esteemed league of founders to launch PairX Bio. We will continue to build the Singapore biotech ecosystem and look forward to advancing PairX’s technologies and assets with Duke-NUS to address the unmet medical needs of patients globally,” said Mr XQ Lin, Managing Partner of Esco Ventures X.
“Duke-NUS has a very strong track record in engaging in world class research with the potential to not only transform health but also deliver financial returns to partners and investors,” said Prof Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean for Research, Duke-NUS Medical School. “Key to our ‘bench to bedside’ approach to healthcare transformation in partnership with SingHealth is the kind of commercialisation exemplified by this spinout. I am confident that PairX and Duke-NUS will continue to advance cancer immunotherapy for the benefit of all cancer patients.”