The MSU cancer drug spinout has been acquired on the strength of its expertise in proteasome inhibitors and preclinical pipeline.

Hibiskus BioPharma, a US-based cancer treatment developer spun out of Michigan State University (MSU), has been acquired by drug discovery firm Lodo Therapeutics for an undisclosed sum.

Founded in 2017, Hibiskus BioPharma has been working on pre-clinical drug treatments for a variety of cancers.

The approach leverages a family of proteasome inhibitors – molecules that block the destruction of intracellular proteins – with the aim of reducing the scope in which cancerous cells are able to proliferate.

Hibiskus BioPharma’s lead molecule, TIR-199, has demonstrated potential against the blood cancers multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma in addition to skin cancer and a number of solid tumours.

Lodo Therapeutics will primarily target solid tumours with TIR-199, now called Lodi-141, going forward both as a standalone treatment and in combination with cancer immunotherapies.

It plans to relocate Hibiskus’s operations to its New York City headquarters, and will leverage the understanding of proteasome inhibitors to help progress cancer-fighting proteins from its informatics-driven discovery platform.

Hibiskus BioPharma grew from research led by André Bachmann, a professor of paediatrics and associate-chair for research at MSU’s College of Human Medicine, and Michael Pirrung, a distinguished professor focused on drug research at University of California, Riverside (UCR).

Pirrung is currently a member of Lodo’s scientific advisory board. The firm has also licensed certain UCR inventions relating to proteasome and immunoproteasome inhibitors.

Hibiskus BioPharma was formed with the help of Red Cedar Ventures and Spartan Innovations, two MSU Foundation-owned units focused on early-stage venture capital and spinout support respectively. The company’s full funding history could not be confirmed, however.

Dale Pfost, chairman and chief executive of Lodo Therapeutics, said: “This is our second targeted transaction at Lodo and reflects our disciplined acquisition strategy based on the extensive experience of our senior team in executing value-creating transactions.

“We believe these novel proteasome inhibitors are an excellent fit for Lodo. They are derived from natural products and have the potential for improved efficacy and therapeutic index compared to existing proteasome inhibitors, a mainstay of multiple myeloma treatment.”