Life science VC firm Amorchem spins out two new startups


AmorChem has invested in and spun out two new startups devoted to tackling inflammation and ocular diseases.

The VC firm separately funded both Corbin Therapeutics and SemaThera to the tune of $1 million seed cash each.

Corbin is a drug discovery platform that identifies and develops novel “USP15 inhibitors” for treatment of inflammation diseases such as multiple sclerosis. SemaThera is a Montréal biotechnology company focused on the development of novel “SEMA 3A TRAP” inhibitors for the treatment of ocular diseases such as diabetic macular edema.

AmorChem is a Montreal-based venture capital firm that invests in life science projects from Quebec-based universities and research centres. The main limited partners of the fund are Investissement-Québec, FIER Partenaires, Fonds de solidarité, FTQ and Merck & Co. It’s managed by Canadian life sciences venture capital firm GeneChem, which started back in 1997.

“Corbin Therapeutics is the perfect example of a university asset which can be turned into a drug discovery platform company around well-defined therapeutic targets,” said Dr. Inès Holzbaur, managing partner at AmorChem.

Corbin seems to be a high-potential life science startup. Maxime Ranger was appointed the Montréal-based startup’s CEO, while Dr. Philippe Gros, who researched the USP15 technology, was named its scientific advisor. Ranger’s resume fits well with the startup: a serial entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry who specialized in drug development in oncology, hepatology, gastroenterology and metabolic conditons, such as obesity. Ranger is a Ph.D. chemist with postdoc trainings oriented to drug delivery, formulation development and nanolithography.

Dr. Gros, meanwhile, is a McGill University professor who specializes in cancer resistance to chemotherapy and genetic models of innate resistance or susceptibility to disease.

Ranger has also been announced as SemaThera’s CEO. Dr. Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, who researched the SEMA 3A technology, will be appointed CSO.

The SEMA 3A technology emerged from the laboratory of Dr. Sapieha at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont (HMR, CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal), who identified SEMA 3A as a novel target for ocular diseases.

“Diabetic macular edema is a common feature of retinopathies and affects a fourth of diabetic patients,” said Dr. Elizabeth Douville, Managing Partner at AmorChem. It’s the most prevalent ophthalmologic condition faced by diabetic patients and the leading cause of vision loss in adults of working age. Today, up to 40 per cent of DME patients are poor-responders to anti-VEGF therapies and intravitreal injections of SEMA 3A inhibitor is clearly seen as a promising option.”

“The spin off of SemaThera validates again the AmorChem model; identifying academic projects with high commercial potential, validating them within the academic setting and then spinning them off into companies,” added Holzbaur.

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