Assembly Pharmaceuticals and BioCrossroads today announced that the BioCrossroads Indiana Seed Fund II has made an investment in Assembly Pharmaceuticals. Assembly is developing novel drugs for the treatment and potential cure of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, Twilight Ventures, Luson Bioventures and private investors also participated in the financing round.
Assembly Pharmaceuticals is applying its novel science to develop agents with the potential to cure chronic HBV. HBV is an underappreciated global epidemic with more than 350 million people worldwide chronically infected, including two million in the U.S. Chronic HBV causes cirrhosis and liver failure, and it is a leading cause of liver cancer. Over 600,000 deaths each year are attributable to HBV. Current treatments can suppress the infection but require lifelong therapy since they are not curative.
Assembly Pharmaceuticals was formed in 2012 to develop drugs based on the breakthrough science of co-founder and Indiana University professor Adam Zlotnick, PhD. Dr. Zlotnick is a pioneer in the biophysics of viral capsid assembly. His research has led to the discovery of multiple families of small molecules known as Core Protein Allosteric Modulators (CpAMs), which target the HBV core protein, a unique viral protein with no human analogue that is involved in multiple stages of the HBV life cycle.
Assembly has exclusively licensed intellectual property from Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation that was discovered in the laboratory of Professor Zlotnick. Assembly has a research collaboration with Indiana University and also has research facilities in San Francisco led by co-founder, vice president of R&D and chief medical officer Uri Lopatin, MD, who previously led HBV programs at Gilead Sciences and Roche Pharmaceuticals.
"Current HBV treatments have cure rates of only 3 to 5%, and thus are not curative for the vast majority of patients," said Derek Small, co-founder and executive chairman of Assembly Pharmaceuticals. "Our HBV drug candidates modulate the viral core protein. By altering the core protein's functions across multiple stages in the viral life cycle, Assembly's novel therapies have the potential to permanently clear the virus. We are delighted at the vote of confidence this BioCrossroads investment represents."
"In addition to their breakthrough science discovered here in Indiana, Assembly Pharmaceuticals has one of the most talented and impressive management and research teams in the industry," said David L. Johnson, president and CEO, BioCrossroads. "Their promising HBV therapy could be a game-changing treatment for millions of people around the world."