Good Therapeutics CEO John Mulligan. (Good Therapeutics Photo)

The news: Seattle startup Good Therapeutics has raised $8 million to advance its therapeutic proteins designed to operate only where they are needed in the body.

The platform: The company’s protein therapeutics reversibly switch from an inactive to an active form only when they bind to their target. By controlling where and when a therapeutic is active, the approach can direct the effects to specific cells or tissues and minimize toxicity. The company’s initial focus is on cancer.

The lead contenders: One lead program focuses on IL-2, an immune modulator that can quell cancer but is often toxic when administered throughout the body. Drug companies have taken a variety of approaches to minimize the toxic effects of IL-2 and maximize its benefit. Good Therapeutics is developing an IL-2-based agent that is active when bound to immune T cells that recognize tumors. The therapeutic binds a target on such cells, PD-1, then shifts to an active state. The company is also developing other “context-dependent” therapeutics, including for other immune modulating molecules.

Closest to clinic: The 22-employee company has “compelling” data in mice for its IL-2 program, said CEO John Mulligan, and is currently choosing a clinical candidate. Good Therapeutics is in discussions with several potential partners to move this project and others forward.

The people: Mulligan earned his doctorate in biology from Stanford University and previously worked as a consultant for Microsoft on a system for storing data on strands of DNA. He also founded Glycostasis, a company that designed a protein to regulate insulin levels, and co-founded Cambrian Genomics, which created a way to laser print DNA. He founded Good Therapeutics in 2016 with seed investments from himself and Codon Capital.

Good Therapeutics recently hired Neela Patel as chief business officer and promoted Diane Hollenbaugh to chief scientific officer from head of research. Patel was previously executive director of corporate development at Seagen, and Hollenbaugh was executive director of Immuno-oncology discovery at AbbVie.

The backers: The new funding is part of a larger Series B round, said Mulligan. Investors are existing backers Roche Venture Fund, RiverVest Venture Partners, Digitalis Ventures and 3×5 Partners. The company previously raised $22 million in Series A funding.

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