European biotechs Oxitope Pharma and Arxx Therapeutics have merged to form Calluna Pharma, raising €75m ($81m) in a Series A funding round.  

Led by existing lead investors Forbion, Sarsia, p53, and Investinor, the funding from the round will go towards a pipeline of monoclonal antibodies targeting immunological diseases. 

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Calluna’s lead candidate CAL101 is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) designed to neutralise S100A4, a damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) protein. When released in excess or at the wrong time, DAMPs can contribute to the development and progression of diseases involving inflammation and tissue damage such as rheumatoid arthritis, steroid-insensitive asthma, chronic kidney disease, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. 

CAL102, a monoclonal antibody that neutralises oxidised phospholipids, is another therapy in development by Calluna. It acts by disrupting the underlying pathways associated with conditions characterised by inflammation and fibrosis. 

The company has two other candidates, CAL103 and CAL104, which are both in the discovery phase.  

Netherlands-based Oxitope launched in 2020, a few years after Norway-based Arxx in 2018, with both startups focusing energy on therapeutic antibodies. 

It’s already been a big year for immunotherapies. Earlier this month, pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim teamed up with 3T Biosciences in a deal totalling $538.5m to advance cancer immunotherapies, using 3T’s T-Cell Receptor Antigen and Cross-Reactivity Engine (TRACE) discovery platform to discover and develop the immunotherapies. 

This development comes after GSK purchased Aiolos Bio in a large $1.4bn acquisition, granting GSK access to Aiolos’ monoclonal antibody AIO-001. The candidate, soon to be investigated in a Phase II study, targets a cytokine thought to play a role in asthma and other inflammation diseases.  

In the announcement accompanying the funding round, Calluna chief executive officer John Montana said: “In joining forces, these two key players in the innate immunology space have created an exciting new clinical company that has four promising therapies in its pipeline with excellent preclinical proof-of-concept data.”