Frontier Medicines launches with $67M Series A, hopes to go after ‘undruggable’ targets

Many proteins known to play roles in cancers are considered “undruggable” because they lack pockets for drugs to bind to. Amgen drew attention at ASCO with data on a drug targeting a KRAS mutation, generally considered not amenable to pharmaceutical therapy.

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A newly launched company hopes to use its initial round of venture capital funding to develop drugs that go after molecular targets of cancers and other diseases that are considered unreachable by pharmaceutical means.

South San Francisco, California-based Frontier Medicines announced Tuesday its launch with a $67 million Series A financing. Deerfield Management, Droia Oncology Ventures and MPM Capital led the round, while DCVC Bio, RA Capital Management and others participated. The company described itself as being the preclinical stage and said it would develop drugs for debilitating diseases, starting with cancers.

The company’s approach involves combining machine learning with chemoproteomics, a drug-discovery approach that according to research can allow for proteome-wide evaluation of the selectivity of chemical tools. Frontier’s model would enable the discovery and pharmacological targeting of new binding pockets on proteins in order to make them accessible to small-molecule drugs.

“Our therapeutic programs are focused on several of the most important and difficult targets in cancer,” CEO Chris Varma said in a statement. “With our platform, we have the ability to address previously inaccessible disease-causing proteins.”

To be sure, there is a countless array of proteins known to play a role in cancers, some of which play a significant enough role in driving the disease that targeting them carries a high likelihood of inducing remission. However, the majority of cancer-causing proteins are considered “undruggable,” meaning they are not accessible by drugs.

Frontier’s website doesn’t currently list the company’s pipeline. But it’s not the only firm going after “undruggable” targets. Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen recently drew attention with the presentation of data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting on AMG 510, a drug that targets a one such target, KRAS G12C. RAS proteins are among those considered not to be amenable to drug therapy, given their lack of pockets to which drugs can effectively bind.

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